Bringing the President Back In: The Collapse of Lehman Brothers and the Evolution of Retrospective Voting in the 2008 Presidential Election

By Holbrook, Thomas M.; Clouse, Clayton et al. | Political Research Quarterly, June 2012 | Go to article overview

Bringing the President Back In: The Collapse of Lehman Brothers and the Evolution of Retrospective Voting in the 2008 Presidential Election


Holbrook, Thomas M., Clouse, Clayton, Weinschenk, Aaron C., Political Research Quarterly


Abstract

Despite prevailing negative conditions, initial analyses of the 2008 presidential election, including this one, find significant but not particularly strong economic voting effects during the fall campaign. In this article, the authors pay special attention to how the economic information context changed during the campaign and how those changes affected the evolution of retrospective voting. The findings show that there were two distinct phases of the fall campaign, that retrospective voting was nonexistent prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers but was strong following the collapse. In effect, the collapse of Lehman Brothers turned the election into a referendum election.

Keywords

economic voting, 2008 presidential election, retrospective voting, economic evaluations, presidential approval

Since the publication of Fiorina's (1981) seminal work, studies of retrospective voting, especially economic retrospective voting, have assumed a prominent role in electoral studies in the United States and around the globe. The central tenet of retrospective voting is that voters make simple assessments about current conditions, broadly defined, and then support or oppose the incumbent administration based on those assessments. While voters may judge the incumbent administration on any number of criteria- foreign policy, the economy, corruption, and so on-much of the focus in studies of retrospective voting has been on the impact of the economic evaluations (Lewis-Beck and Stegmaier 2000, 2007). For instance, election-forecasting models are almost always retrospective in nature and almost always include measures of economic performance as a key retrospective indicator, often in conjunction with a measure of presidential approval (Holbrook 2010).1

At first blush, the 2008 presidential election would seem to offer the perfect context for strong retrospective voting: a declining economy and an unpopular president should both have sent strong signals to the electorate. In short, the economic and political context in 2008 was so negative, in comparison to other years, that forming and using retrospective evaluations should have been a relatively easy task, one that would be expected to result in an Obama victory. However, as we discuss below, there are good reasons to have had more tempered expectations for retrospective voting, and economic voting in particular. More important, however, is that the campaign did not unfold amid a single contextual backdrop; instead, the context of the election changed dramatically with the focus on economic turmoil that began in earnest when Lehman Brothers Inc., a major financial services firm, collapsed on September 15, 2008.2 We take advantage of this important shiftto test ideas about the impact of context on retrospective voting in the 2008 presidential election. Specifically, we examine the evolution of retrospective voting during the fall campaign, paying special attention to the muchdiscussed collapse of the Lehman Brothers financial services corporation as a potential catalyst for retrospective voting. Specifically, we examine whether the collapse of Lehman Brothers served a priming function, leading voters to rely more heavily on economic perceptions following the collapse. We also consider whether the collapse may have helped turn voters' attention to national conditions more generally and led them to assign more weight not just to economic evaluations but also to presidential performance evaluations.

Studies of the 2008 Election

Interesting and important scholarship on the 2008 election is now beginning to emerge, including work on race (Hutchings 2009; Pasek et al. 2009; Philpot, Shaw, and McGowen 2009), campaign effects (Masket 2009; Osborn, McClurg, and Knoll 2010), and the economy (Erikson 2009; Holbrook 2009; Lewis-Beck and Nadeau 2009; Linn, Moody, and Asper 2009). There are a number of findings from these and other studies that provide some insight into the role of the economy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Bringing the President Back In: The Collapse of Lehman Brothers and the Evolution of Retrospective Voting in the 2008 Presidential Election
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.