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Party Influence in Congress and the Economy


  • Erik Snowberg
  • Justin Wolfers
  • Eric Zitzewitz


To understand the extent to which partisan majorities in Congress influence economic policy, we compare financial market responses in recent midterm elections to Presidential elections. We use prediction markets tracking election outcomes as a means of precisely timing and calibrating the arrival of news, allowing substantially more precise estimates than a traditional event study methodology. We find that equity values, oil prices, and Treasury yields are slightly higher with Republican majorities in Congress, and that a switch in the majority party in a chamber of Congress has an impact that is only 10-30 percent of that of the Presidency. We also find evidence inconsistent with the popular view that divided government is better for equities, finding instead that equity valuations increase monotonically, albeit slightly, with the degree of Republican control.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik Snowberg & Justin Wolfers & Eric Zitzewitz, 2006. "Party Influence in Congress and the Economy," NBER Working Papers 12751, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12751
    Note: AP EFG LS PE POL

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Scholes, Myron & Williams, Joseph, 1977. "Estimating betas from nonsynchronous data," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 309-327, December.
    2. Krehbiel, Keith, 1993. "Where's the Party?," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(02), pages 235-266, April.
    3. Erik Snowberg & Justin Wolfers & Eric Zitzewitz, 2007. "Partisan Impacts on the Economy: Evidence from Prediction Markets and Close Elections," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 807-829.
    4. Jayachandran, Seema, 2006. "The Jeffords Effect," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 397-425, October.
    5. Wolfers, Justin & Zitzewitz, Eric, 2006. "Interpreting Prediction Market Prices as Probabilities," IZA Discussion Papers 2092, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-838, May.
    7. Chari, V V & Jones, Larry E & Marimon, Ramon, 1997. "The Economics of Split-Ticket Voting in Representative Democracies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 957-976, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Coulomb, Renaud & Sangnier, Marc, 2014. "The impact of political majorities on firm value: Do electoral promises or friendship connections matter?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 158-170.
    2. Magnus Carlsson & Gordon B. Dahl & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2015. "Do Politicians Change Public Attitudes?," NBER Working Papers 21062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Pietro Ortoleva & Erik Snowberg, 2015. "Overconfidence in Political Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(2), pages 504-535, February.
    4. Raphaƫl Godefroy, 2010. "The birth of the congressional clinic," PSE Working Papers halshs-00564921, HAL.
    5. Erik Snowberg & Justin Wolfers & Eric Zitzewitz, 2011. "How Prediction Markets can Save Event Studies," CAMA Working Papers 2011-07, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    6. Quoc-Anh Do & Bang Dang Nguyen & Yen-Teik Lee & Kieu-Trang Nguyen, 2011. "Out of Sight, Out of Mind:The Value of Political Connections in Social Networks," Working Papers 19-2011, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    7. Niklas Potrafke, 2017. "Government Ideology and Economic Policy-Making in the United States," CESifo Working Paper Series 6444, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Imai, Masami & Shelton, Cameron A., 2011. "Elections and political risk: New evidence from the 2008 Taiwanese Presidential Election," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 837-849, August.
    9. Coulomb, Renaud & Sangnier, Marc, 2014. "The impact of political majorities on firm value: Do electoral promises or friendship connections matter?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 158-170.
    10. Labonne, Julien, 2016. "Local political business cycles: Evidence from Philippine municipalities," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 56-62.
    11. Rothschild, David, 2015. "Combining forecasts for elections: Accurate, relevant, and timely," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 952-964.
    12. Stephen Weymouth & J. Lawrence Broz, 2013. "Government Partisanship and Property Rights: Cross-Country Firm-Level Evidence," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(2), pages 229-256, July.
    13. Masami Imai & Cameron A. Shelton, 2010. "Elections and Political Risk: New Evidence from Political Prediction Markets in Taiwan," Wesleyan Economics Working Papers 2010-001, Wesleyan University, Department of Economics.
    14. Dodge Cahan & Niklas Potrafke, 2017. "The Democratic-Republican Presidential Growth Gap and the Partisan Balance of the State Governments," CESifo Working Paper Series 6517, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • G13 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Contingent Pricing; Futures Pricing
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General

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