Economics, entitlements, and social issues: Voter choice in the 1996 presidential election

R. Michael Alvarez, Jonathan Nagler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theory: Contemporary theories of presidential election outcomes, especially the economic voting and spatial issue voting models, are used to examine voter choice in the 1996 presidential election. Hypotheses: First, we look at the effects of voter perceptions of the national economy on voter support for Clinton. Second, we look at the effects of candidate and voter positions on ideology and on a number of issues. Last, we examine whether voters' views on other issues - social issues such as abortion as well as issues revolving around entitlements and taxation that were emphasized by the campaigns - played significant roles in this election. Methods: We employ multinomial probit analysis of the 1996 National Election Studies data and simulations based on counterfactual scenarios which are based on different perceptions of macroeconomic conditions and issue platforms of candidates. Results: The effects of economic perceptions are much greater than the effects of voter issue positions on the election outcome. This behavior by voters leaves presidents substantial room to shirk on policy issues. But, some social issues, namely abortion, play a role in determining the election outcome. The presence of a third centrist candidate limited the ability of other candidates to improve their vote shares by moving in the issue space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1363
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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