When Do Citizens Respond Politically to the Local Economy? Evidence from Registry Data on Local Housing Markets

Recent studies of economic voting have focused on the role of the local economy, but with inconclusive results. We argue that while local economic conditions affect incumbent support on average, the importance of the local economy varies by citizens’ interactions with it. More recent and frequent encounters with aspects of the local economy make those aspects more salient and, in turn, feature more prominently in evaluations of the incumbent government. We label this process “context priming.” We provide evidence for these propositions by studying local housing markets. Linking granularly detailed data on housing prices from Danish public registries to both precinct-level election returns and an individual-level panel survey, we find that when individuals interact with the housing market, their support for the incumbent government is more responsive to changes in local housing prices. The study thus provides a framework for understanding when citizens respond politically to the local economy.

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