It seems that during every presidential election year we are told that jobs and the economy will be pivotal issues. It’s commonly assumed that an incumbent president has little to worry about if the economy is good and there are lots of jobs. If the opposite holds true, however, the president should prepare for life on the rubber chicken circuit. Testing Conventional Wisdom of Presidential
I decided to examine this conventional wisdom to see if it holds true and to see what it can tell us about the future presidential elections. Since 1948, there have been nine presidential elections that have pitted an incumbent president against a challenger. Out of those nine, I chose to examine six elections. I decided to disregard two of those elections where the challenger was considered too extreme to be elected: Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George S. McGovern in 1972. Out of the remaining presidential elections, incumbents won four elections while challengers won three. To see what impact jobs and the economy had on the election, we’ll consider two important economic indicators: the growth rate of real GNP (the economy) and the unemployment rate (jobs). We’ll compare the two-year vs. the four-year and previous four-year performance of those variables in order to compare how “Jobs & The Economy” performed during the incumbent’s presidency and how it performed relative to the previous administration. First, we’ll look at the performance of “Jobs & The Economy” in the three of the cases in which the incumbent won. Be sure to continue to Page 2 of “Presidential Elections and the Economy.” Out of our six chosen incumbent presidential elections, we had three where the incumbent won. We’ll look at those three, starting with the percentage of the electoral vote each candidate collected.