Document Type

Article - post-print

Publication Date

2012

Abstract

According to numerous studies, the election-year economy influences presidential election results far more than cumulative growth throughout the term. Here we describe a series of surveys and experiments that point to an intriguing explanation for voter behavior that runs contrary to the standard explanations political science has offered, but one that accords with a large psychological literature. Voters, we find, actually intend to judge presidents on cumulative growth. However, since that characteristic is not readily available to them, voters inadvertently substitute election-year performance because it is more easily accessible. This “end-heuristic” explanation for voters’ election-year emphasis reflects a general tendency for people to simplify retrospective assessments by substituting conditions at the end for the whole. The end heuristic explanation also suggests a remedy, a way to align voters’ actions with their intentions. Providing people with the attribute they are seeking—cumulative growth—eliminates the election-year emphasis.

Publisher Statement

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Healy, A. and Lenz, G. S. (2014), Substituting the End for the Whole: Why Voters Respond Primarily to the Election-Year Economy. American Journal of Political Science, 58: 31–47, which has been published in final form at doi:10.1111/ajps.12053. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

Recommended Citation

Healy, A. and Lenz, G. S. (2014), Substituting the End for the Whole: Why Voters Respond Primarily to the Election-Year Economy. American Journal of Political Science, 58: 31–47.

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