“It’s the economy, stupid”. Or is it?
The mantra of Bill Clinton’s strategist James Carville has become something of an orthodoxy for politicians and political commentators, but is the economy really the key issue in voting behaviour?
This new research, published by the Social Market Foundation and the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE), shows that happier a voter is, the more likely they are to vote for an incumbent government party.
That finding, the authors suggest, helps explain why the Conservatives have generally polled well ahead of Labour even a time of falling real wages and squeezed living standards for many.
The key message from this research is that “it may not always be the economy, stupid”. While economic trends typically have knock-on effects for life satisfaction and thus voting behaviour, they are not always decisive.
In spite of the living standards squeeze, the UK seems to have become more satisfied over the last few years. That may help explain what appear to be Theresa May’s rosy election prospects.
And looking beyond the 2017 general election, a wider lesson to draw from this research is that politicians would do well to pay greater attention wellbeing analysis and, especially, to support efforts to produce higher quality and more comprehensive measures of wellbeing.