Did Voters Really Care About the Economy When They Voted This November?

Most Americans will tell you that their number 1 issue in this past Presidential election was the economy. So Obama’s contribution to the economic upturn in various cities must have helped him clinch the win, right? Wrong. I read an interesting study on the relationship between votes for Obama and the economy and was surprised at the results. An analysis of voting patterns in US cities finds the areas where Obama GAINED votes from 2008 to 2012 are WORSE off economically than they were 4 years ago. Here’s a breakdown of what happened:

Obama still maintained the advantage he had in 2008 in metropolitan areas. Those that supported him in 2008 typically still supported him in 2012, but to a lesser extent. In terms of housing prices, cities like Pittsburgh and Houston have had an increase in home prices in the past 4 years. Places like Phoenix and Orlando have had a nearly 25% drop in home prices since 2008. If the economy, as measured by home prices, was such a hot button issue in these cities, it would be expected for Pittsburgh and Houston to reward Obama for their improved markets and Phoenix and Orlando to punish Obama for their declining housing market. However, no relationship was found. Looking at unemployment rate as another indicator of the economy, the study found surprising results. In areas where the local unemployment rate decreased the most, Obama’s margin of victory got slimmer.

Read more from this revealing study at:


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Henry Brown

Believe that the reason for the election victory was demographics, as per Mr. Kolko…

I also believe that the campaign made some decisions that they would NOT expend a great deal of money/effort in those states where there was little or no chance of him winning (the deep south(minus Fl) comes to mind)…

Ami Wazlawik

Interesting study… thanks for the post, Hannah. The authors note a few things that appear to have contributed to the discrepancy, but I think there’s more at play here. 1) Voters don’t always tell the truth 2) Voters’ definitions of “the economy” could vary significantly from person to person 3) Other issues may have become more important to voters, or may have been rolled into the broad term “economy” as voters made their decisions and cast their ballots.

Hannah Ornell

Ami- Great additions. I was thinking of your second point as well; it really matters how people define economy. Similarly, people may have judged Obama’s impact on the economy from the feel they got from the media instead of actually looking up the statistics in their city.

Henry- I agree, demographics definitely played a large role. It is interesting nonetheless that those same cities that went Obama in 2008 supported him to a lesser extent in 2012. Thanks for your input!