The academic literature on who wins the White House in a given election is pretty clear. People vote their wallets – when they feel heavier the incumbent’s party keeps power, when they feel lighter, it’s “time for change”. This isn’t a slam dunk every time, but it’s an over-generalization worth keeping in mind. I’ve seen everyone else’s stats, this is my big picture takeaway.
And voters do NOT consider the economy during the full four-year term of an incumbent president’s administration – only the way things are going during the last few quarters. This is why Bush was out in ’92 even after having fought and won a hugely popular war. It’s why Obama gained a devastating amount of momentum circa Lehman September in 2008, while McCain repeated the Bush line that “the fundamentals of our economy are sound.”
There are always other factors (please, no emails about Sarah Palin), but the economy is the primary thing that people vote on. Kerry never stood a chance during the heart of the Bush housing boom in 2004 and Obama was invincible in 2012 as home prices, the stock market and employment were all showing concrete signs of improvement.
So, barring any kind of completely aberrant event in the world (which are always possible), I’d say “Tell me how the economy rolls into the summer of 2016 and I’ll tell you which party takes the national presidential election.
And as further proof, here’s something from Gallup, in which an overwhelming 86% of Americans – of both parties – say that the economy is their primary concern for the 2016 election.
PRINCETON, N.J. — Eighty-six percent of Americans say the economy will be extremely or very important to their vote next year, a significantly higher percentage than for any other issue. Concerns about terrorism rank high at 74% with foreign affairs further down the list at 61%.
The independents will swing and the partisans will “get the vote out” based on money, and the people’s perception of whether or not they are about to make more or less of it.