Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Politics

By Leif Lewin; Donald Lavery | Go to book overview

2
Does the Voter Follow His Pocket-Book?

USA

Whether it is self-interest or public interest that is most important to the voter making political choices is something I shall try to determine in this chapter by presenting and discussing a large number of empirical studies. Since American research has predominated in this field both with respect to theory and empirical data, the situation in the USA will be dealt with first. In the following section will be discussed the voters' motives for their choice of party in a number of countries in Western Europe and elsewhere.

As was noted in the introduction, aggregate analysis was the technique most prevalently used in the early period of electoral research during the 1920s and 1930s. This is also true of the particular question that interests us here. Researchers began to ask themselves what importance economic factors have for voting and sought an answer by comparing maps and records of variations in economic and political activity. John Barnhart thus published an analysis of rainfall and votes cast for the Populist Party in the American Political Science Review of 1925. Maps showing the size of the population, drought, and the conditions for farming in Nebraska during the 1880s and 1890s were compared with the decline in the number of votes won by the Republican Party and the emergence of the Populist Party. Without succeeding in drawing completely unambiguous results he concluded that the harder times for farming caused by the drought had put the farmers in a 'receptive frame of mind' for the arguments of the populists.1

In another pioneering study from the 1920s the correlation between support for the Republican Party and changes in the business cycle

-29-

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Self-Interest and Public Interest in Western Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page vii
  • Contents ix
  • I- Self-Interest and Public Interest 1
  • 2- Does the Voter Follow His Pocket-Book? 29
  • CONCLUSIONS 58
  • 3- Are Politicians Vote-Maximizers? 60
  • CONCLUSIONS 73
  • 4- Are Bureaucrats Budget-Maximizers? 75
  • CONCLUSIONS 94
  • 5- Individual and Collective Rationality 98
  • Notes 113
  • Bibliography 129
  • Index 141
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