Economic growth helps governments get reelected. But does growth, as a valence issue, exhaust the possibilities for the economic vote? What about the impact of inequality, as as a positional economic issue? Can rising economic inequality make or break a government, independent of the country’s growth trajectory? We show, via an examination of 310 elections in established democracies, across time and space, that growth and inequality both matter for incumbent government support. Somewhat surprisingly, we find that both left-wing and right-wing incumbents are held accountable for changes in inequality. While these effects appear unaltered by structural factors such as federalism or the electoral system, their impact seems to depend, to some extent, on whether the country is going through economic hard times.
Dassonneville, Ruth and Lewis-Beck, Michael S., "Growth, Inequality, and Party Support: Valence and Positional Economic Voting" (2018). ICEPP Working Papers. 170.