Recessions boost the right, not the left

Interesting. More.

In his column today, Paul Krugman cites research by Markus Brückner and Hans Peter Grüner showing that recessions boost the vote for extreme right-wing and nationalist parties. As Krugman argues, this helps explain the rise of the Tea Partiers and other strange life forms on the right. Of course, such critters are never far from the surface in American political life—but they do seem more salient these days.

Krugman’s little summary was tantalizing, so I tracked down the original. (The paper is here; a summary, here.) Brückner and Grüner looked at 16 European countries (Krugman wrongly implies that they also looked at the U.S., but they didn’t) from 1970 to 2002. They found that for every percentage point decline in GDP growth over two quarters, support for the far right rises by 0.136 percentage points. Though the finding is statistically significant, it’s not electorally so—that’s a pretty small effect. From their work, Brückner and Grüner estimate that even a sustained three-point decline in the growth rate might produce no more than a three-point gain in the far right’s electoral share.

Articles like this is why I have stopped reading Krugman as an economist and more like someone who would post on web forums, or someone like James Carville (without Carville’s wit.) The man is so focused on his anti-republican, pro-democrat agenda that he comes across, to me, as foaming at the mouth much of the time. That always makes me skeptical of any researcher or scientist or data analyst - when you’re goal is making a point and supporting a bias first, the data analysis is always suspect.

In this case he even falsifies what the paper says (read the paper - it says nothing about data from the U.S., and right and left politics in European countries are not always, maybe not even often, extrapolatable to U.S. politics - yet Krugman says the study shows that in the U.S. and in Europe, etc. - untrue.)

It’s a shame, I’ve been reading Krugman for a while, but he has become more and more just another party hack. Even when he is right (and I don’t think I agree here, I think the answers are much simpler) these days he just puts too much bias spin on everything.

Jason, I assume you disagree? ;)

Uh, I didn’t pay any attention to the Krugman part at all. It wasn’t his paper.

Damn, Jason, you’re no fun any more! LOL! ;)

But even though you’re not arguing for him - Krugman states that he was baffled at the “rise of the radical right” recently, or the reporting of it. On the one hand he says it’s always been there, then on the other hand he says well, the right are the ones who profit politically in the U.S. when a recession hits. And thus the rise of the Tea Party movement, etc. recently and the reason for the recent rise in the voice of the right.

One simple problem with that - the Democrats gained big time as the economy went into freefall. They gained in Congress, and they easily won the presidency. They had it all - huge margins in the Senate and House and the White House. All gained while the country was in the worst of the economic crisis.

Now the recession is showing signs of a slow recovery, but a recovery none the less (the damned Greece issue is what is screwing up the market right now.) And the rise of the tea party type of folks is coming as the economy is coming back, not dropping. I suspect it is as simple as the Dems have the majorities and the White House, have fumbled and bumbled and frankly looked pretty weak, and they opened themselves up as easy targets.

I will say that, while I consider myself an Independent, I am both amazed and saddened by what I see from friends who, while always conservative, have seemed pretty reasonable in the past. I see stuff in, for example, their FB postings that aren’t just differing opinions, they are just literally ignorant, and this from people who are smarter than that. But no need to stretch for the reasons.

'Course, Krugman’s got an editorial column to fill. ;)

  1. The party in power almost always gets thrown out when there’s a recession. The Democrats came in about where the simple regression models of “turnover after 2 terms + recession + war” projected they would.

  2. What’s interesting is that apparently if you run a more sensitive model looking specifically at the vote distributions vs. economic growth rates, the right does better when the economy tanks.

1 & 2 aren’t incompatible.

Agree on 1.

On two, that model has only been run in European political systems/countries, and there’s no data (that I’ve found in the economic literature) on this for the U.S. - at least data that takes into account all variables. There are some significant differences in most European political systems (number of parties, voting approaches, types of parties in terms of right and left, etc.) that make their trends irrelevant, for the most part, to U.S. political trends.

It appears that the side that is not in power tends to do better when the economy tanks, all other things being equal. Duh, you and I know that. The American people are rather simple, unfortunately. If the economy is good and they have a job and no messy war, they think you’re doing a great job. Clinton had no real accomplishments, certainly not anything that the average person on the street can point to. Yet he probably could have won a third term. No real wars, economy was humming. Only Gore could have lost that race, IMO, with such a horrible campaign, and even then he got more votes. Ironically, Clinton won in large part by talking about the economy, even though in hindsight Bush was correct that the economy was already back on the upturn.

Paper’s here.

Another fun one:

More on the immigrant angle: further evidence that feelings about immigration are driven more by “cultural” than narrowly economic concerns can be found in this paper by David Card, Christian Dustmann, and Ian Preston. Among other things they find that some of the most passionately anti-immigrant people are retirees, who of course have no labor market competition issues. Christians are more opposed to immigration than non-Christians, and there’s a lot of anxiety about heathen nonwhites polluting native cultures.