Attributing presidential responsibility for national economic problems

Mark Peffley, John T. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Several recent studies of economic voting have challenged a central assumption of the reward-punishment theory of retrospective voting, that voters hold the incumbent party responsible for all manner of economic fluctuations. Our research expands on prior work in several ways by specifying and testing a model of the way people attribute responsibility to presidents for national economic problems. We find that during the 1982 recession, President Reagan was spared the wrath of the reward-punishment theory among individuals who felt that economic problems were more the fault of the previous administration, that presidents have relatively little control over the causes of inflation and unemployment, and that past presidents were unable to control these same problems. Implications for retrospective voting theories and the outcome of the 1982 midterm elections are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-425
Number of pages33
JournalAmerican Politics Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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