Individual Variation in the Salience of Economic Performance


Theories of government approval usually assume that voters care about eco-nomic outcomes. This assumption frequently does not hold. Data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems demonstrate that although the econ-omy is often the most important issue in an election, its place on the issue agenda varies across individuals and electoral contexts. The economy is more likely to dominate other issue concerns under conditions of economic reces-sion, volatility, and economic underdevelopment. Moreover, at the individual level the salience of economic performance rises with unemployment and economic vulnerability. Governance crises related to corruption and human rights reduce attention to the economy, as do large-scale terrorist attacks. If the economy is not perceived as important, its effect on government approv-al is strongly mitigated. Thus, variations in the economy’s salience need to be further incorporated into studies linking economic and political outcomes

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