16 July 2014

People Under 65 Don't Vote Their Pocketbooks

Voters aged 65 and older who believe they are net beneficiaries of federal spending are more likely to be Democrats and vote for Barack Obama than seniors who believe they are net contributors to the federal government. However, the 77.5 percent of voters under age 65 who believe they are net beneficiaries of federal spending are as likely to vote for Romney as for Obama and as likely to be Republicans as Democrats. Voters who live in states that receive more in federal funds than they pay in federal taxes are less likely to vote for Obama or to be Democrats. For most of the electorate, dependence on federal spending is unrelated to vote choice.
Thus, there is no meaningful correlation between perceived net benefit from the federal government, for voters under the age of sixty-five, and partisan affiliation. Moreover, actual net benefit from the federal government is weakly correlated with a tendency to vote Republican.

While people to engage in referendum voting, ousting the party in power during weak economies, social issues, rather than economic ones, seem to be the driving determiners of political identity.

An alternative explanation is that people misperceive whether or not they are net contributors to the federal government or not,  in response to surveys.  But, this is not very politically salient to most voters because the magnitude of the net contribution or net benefit is so modest either way for them.
Meanwhile, the number of people whose net contribution is really economically significant enough for it to be really salient to voting decisions is so small that personal self-interest is statistically unimportant.  In other words, if only 1%-5% of the population are net contributors in way great enough to be politically salient, the fact that they vote their pocketbooks is usually irrelevant to electoral outcomes.  Their power comes from campaign contributions that influence the masses on terms relevant to those masses, not from the clout of their own voting block.

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