When Growth is Not Enough: Issue Positions, Inequality, and Economic Accountability

Timothy Hellwig (Indiana University – Bloomington)

27th of June, 13:00h, Sala de Juntes de la Facultat de Ciències Polítiques i Sociologia de la UAB.
A robust economy is widely assumed to bolster executive approval. But this assumption ignores how the benefits of growth are distributed and the executive’s distributive positions. In this paper, we theorize that the degree to which economic growth translates into executive approval depends both on the distribution of economic gains and on whether this distribution matches the executive’s mandate. Executives are most consistently rewarded for growth when they are concentrated among their constituents and, thus, match their distributive mandates. A test of our theory’s observable implications using an original quarterly dataset of presidential approval in 18 Latin American countries strongly supports our theoretical expectations. Since growth is not distribution-neutral, the implication is that the economy is not purely a valence issue, as generally assumed, but rather a position issue. Our findings point to a relatively sophisticated mass public that plays a key role in the fulfillment of the democratic bargain.