Tuesday, September 16, 2008

66% of Economists are Economists for Obama

This is according to a new survey of 523 economists who are U.S. citizens and members of the American Economic Association. See a Powerpoint with methodology and detailed results here.

Also see this post with results of a survey of top economists by the Economist Magazine.

Click here for our list of Obama economic advisers and prominent economists who support Obama.

30 comments:

Richard Hine said...

Here's my new nightmare. It's 2011. Unemployment is 12%. The world is still reeling from President McCain's nuclear attack on Iran (questions are being raised about faulty intelligence). Rumors about the President's health continue to swirl. McCain announces he will not seek re-election. Palin doesn't blink. "I'm ready," she says. The Republican Party cheers. "This is a change election! With Palin, we'll finally get some real reform!"

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting graphic. However, it would be helpful if you could provide the political affiliation of the individual economists. For example, CNN.com had a commentary by Scott Adams (who writes Dilbert) at http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/16/dilbert.economy/index.html

He commissioned a survey of 500 economists to find who they thought was the better candidate for the economy. "Not surprisingly, 88 percent of Democratic economists think Democratic Sen. Barack Obama would be best, while 80 percent of Republican economists pick Republican Sen. John McCain."

I'm for Obama but I don't know how helpful your graphic is.

Anonymous said...

The date on the Heckman quote from the NYTimes you cite is wrong. October 20, 2008 isn't here yet.

Don Pedro said...

If you think that economists as a group have some special insight into who would make a good president (and why else would you care about their views?), their party affiliation is irrelevant. Party affiliation is not a fixed characteristic--it is a product of their evaluation of the parties. The fact that economists are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans is an outcome, not something you want to condition on.

To put it in other terms, economists as a group pay more attention to economic policy and therefore are more likely to realize that Obama and the Democrats have better policies and are far better at running the government. Consequently, they are more likely both to support Obama AND to be Democrats. They don't support Obama BECAUSE they are Democrats. They are Obama supporters and Democrats for the same reason.

Anonymous said...

there is a link above that states the methodology and demographics of the sample.

I thinks it's telling that Obama got picked by 60% of independents and 15% of registered Republican Economists.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting. As more comparison, here's an analysis of which party was historically better for the economy. A must-see.

http://tlrii.typepad.com/theliscioreport/2008/07/presidential-ec.html#more

Trinovante39 said...

The US and Japan have high corp taxes, and are leading the recession. Ireland has low corp taxes, and has been growing.

What confuses me is that it's said US corps end up not paying their taxes anyway. So it must be the PERCEPTION of high taxes that's driving business elsewhere.

So, wouldn't it make more sense to lower corp taxes, but make darned sure they get paid, than have high taxes that don't get paid?

@Richard Hine. If the US unemployment rate hits 12%, that's a real disaster, for the true rate would be more like 20%. US unemployment rates are undercounted, because you get 26 weeks of help, then give up and are no longer counted.

Last time I was unemployed, in the UK around 1958, I had to continue to show up at the unemployment office because it was also the social security office AND the EMPLOYMENT office. If I didn't show up to get my SocSec card franked, my pension would be reduced accordingly. Thus, I'd be counted among the unemployed for the full period of that experience, not just until I gave up hope.

I once asked why these three offices, (unemployment, social security, and job service), are not combined in the US. "It would be unconstitutional," was the enigmatic reply.

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

On the thread 'Economists for John McCain Matt Young wrote:

"The second effect is the economic effect, which demonstrates that individuals respond to incentives. The higher the tax rates are, the less will be the incentive for people to engage in the taxed activity. Therefore, when tax rates are cut people will be more inclined to engage in the taxed activity triggering a pro-growth environment where workers are more inclined to work, employers to employ and producers to produce. Thus, a tax rate cut will result in a broader tax base which in and of itself would lead to more tax revenue."

This is incorrect. There are actually two contradictory 'economic effects', the 'income effect' and the 'substitution effect'

Substitution effect:
As the wage rate rises, the worker will substitute work hours for leisure hours, that is, will work more hours to take advantage of the higher wage rate, or in other words substitute away from leisure because of its higher opportunity cost.

Income effect:
In contrast, the income effect states that as people are taxed less they will not need to work as many hours in order to earn the same income, therefore they will choose more leisure time and less work time.

The effects are contradictory and only empirical study shows which effect is greater at any given time.

BTW, my understanding is that Ireland's economy is not performing so well any more.

Anonymous said...

Since when do economists vote?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
This is an interesting graphic. However, it would be helpful if you could provide the political affiliation of the individual economists. For example, CNN.com had a commentary by Scott Adams (who writes Dilbert) at http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/16/dilbert.economy/index.html

He commissioned a survey of 500 economists to find who they thought was the better candidate for the economy. "Not surprisingly, 88 percent of Democratic economists think Democratic Sen. Barack Obama would be best, while 80 percent of Republican economists pick Republican Sen. John McCain."

I'm for Obama but I don't know how helpful your graphic is.


You need to click on the details and you will find that 48% were Dem, 17 Rep and 27 Ind. Of the Rep, 15% vavor Obama and of the Ind. 33% favor McCain.

Don Pedro said...

I had a back and forth with Adams about this yesterday.

As noted above, if you think economists as a group have some special insight on policy, you shouldn't worry about their political affiliation.

Yes, economists on average these days are more likely to be Democrats and are more likely to support Obama. Both points are a consequence of the fact that the Democrats have better policy.

My guess is that there were far more Republican economists in the 90s, before Bush's (and McCain's) borrow-and-spend policies made it almost impossible to be a respectable economist and call oneself a Republican.

cuppettcj said...

Unfortunately, anyone who has ever taken a statistics class at a major university (and probably any university) will be able to say that this was not a scientific poll. It limits results to those economists who appear on the American Economic Association’s opt-in membership list. To get scientific results, the survey respondents need to be randomly selected. What about economists who aren't members of the AEA? What about AEA economists who don't opt-in?

A more accurate headline would be "American Economic Association Opt-In Membership List Economists are Economists for Obama."

Don Pedro said...

The poll was conducted scientifically. The economists were randomly selected among American Economics Association members who are in the AEA mailing list.

I don't think this creates any major bias in the results. The AEA is the main economics organization of economists. To receive the AEA's journals--which are the principal economics journals--you have to be a member, and I don't know any economists who are not members.

I'm not sure about the mailing list, but my guess is that most people are on the list. They only rarely send messages out on the list.

Anonymous said...

To Don Pedro:

Okay, please. Don't make yourself look foolish. Economists have biases as well. They don't simply analyze the data and then decide that they will be Democrats and Obama supporters based strictly on economic data. There are many issues influencing their judgment.

It's clear from the data that those favoring Obama fall into the category of those whose view economics as a means to bring fairness and justice to the world--at least their interpretation of fairness and justice. They tend to support redistribution of wealth, steps toward nationalized health care, pro-environment causes, raising the minimum wage, etc. In other words, they view economics as a tool for social change. It's really not surprising that these economists would support a socialist.

Economists who favor McCain tend to have another view of economics that values good international trade relations, low taxes on business and capital, reduced waste, etc. This view tends to believe that the health of the economy is the most important thing because a healthy economy provides the most good for the most people. This view generally argues for limited government in economic affairs. This view tends to not conflate economics and a social agenda. So it's also not surprising that these economists favor McCain.

You and your crew on this website obviously fall into the same category as the Obama supporters in this survey: they view economics as a tool for changing society into the place they want it to be, rather than simply advocating for the health of the economy. Please do not underestimate the power of a social agenda in informing your views on economics. Clearly it has.

Based on what these Obama-supporting economists thought was important, it is clear that a social agenda is driving their view of economics, which I'm not saying is necessarily bad. Just beware that biases exist and don't pretend that they don't. You just make yourself look foolish asserting otherwise.

Don Pedro said...

Dear Anonymous (if that is your real name!),

I am touched by your heartfelt concern for the danger that I may look foolish.

If your sole concern is which party is better for "the health of the economy" narrowly defined, you should definitely vote for Obama. It is well-documented that the economic fundamentals consistently performed better under Democratic presidents than Republicans. See for example, Alan Blinder's recent column:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/business/31view.html

independent for neither of the above said...

If Paul Krugman is any kind of example, I'm sure that there are plenty economists who can seperate their politics from their economics.

Anonymous said...

Krugman is your example of an economist who is not influenced by his politics? HA!

Anonymous said...

Economists are some of the dumbest people to comment on the economy and the markets. Pick someone who has tons of money on the line and ask them about the economy and the markets. Economists are a group of people who start their analysis with "If I assume......". I would much rather have a hedge fund manager give his opinion on the economy and the markets because he is far more intelligent than any economist.

Dan said...

"Pick someone who has tons of money on the line..."

Warren Buffet likes Obama's economic policies

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said,"It's clear from the data that those favoring Obama fall into the category of those whose view economics as a means to bring fairness and justice to the world--at least their interpretation of fairness and justice."
Who's looking stupid here? Exactly WHY is it clear from the data? You're confusing what's floating around your dogma-filled head with fact.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

From one Anonymous to another:

"Exactly WHY is it clear from the data? You're confusing what's floating around your dogma-filled head with fact."

Uh, did you actually look at the report? Here's a hint: large differences in the importance of an issue tells you something about their respective worldviews. Read the report, activate your brain, and then see if you can follow the rationale advocated in the post you referenced.

brian said...

Baloney that economists are impartial and only select their party based on, what you are implying, their superior intellectual and analytical capabilities.

Don't forget the original selection bias in the motivations and desires for people to become an academic and economist in the first place.

And just being an economist doesn't mean you know best, just that you have a set of "facts" you have manipulated to support your position. Socialism, marxism, and the like had some pretty compelling economists to support their causes.

And I really think your reference to how well democratic vs republican administrations perform is another of what I will refer to as a "Mark Twain lies, damn lies, and statistics doozie". Given there are so many intermingling components (eg, Congress, Fed, global issues) ascribing credit or blame for the economy only on a President, and their party, is quite circumspect (to use nice terms).

Matt said...

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

You can produce any result you want with statistics.

James said...

Don Pedro said...
"The fact that economists are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans is an outcome, not something you want to condition on."

This is false. Academic economists are more likely to be Democrats, while Wall Street economists are more likely to be Republicans. It is the occupational preference, not the economic education, that is correlated with the political preference.

Let's look at this from another perspective. Academic economists are much less likely to be Democrats than other academics. Once you control for occupational choice, the economic education makes people less likely to be Democrats.

Don Pedro said...

James,
You have made assertions without any actual evidence.

Several points of confusion in your post:

The world of economists is not divided into economists employed on Wall Street and those employed in academia. (I think there are few actual economists employed on Wall Street.) There are many more employed in government, in the private sector, and in think tanks.

I don't think there is any information on the political preference of economists by occupation. I did once see a non-scientific WSJ "poll" of a small number of economists who worked for Wall Street firms, and the majority favored McCain. Make of that what you will.

In any case, the American Economics Association has members in all sorts of occupations. It is definitely not limited to academics.

Anonymous said...

Back in early July, when McCain was still giving interviews to CNN:

ROBERTS: I checked the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan organization. They project that by extending the president's tax cuts, which you want to do, and adding in the tax cuts that you're proposing, the deficit for the year 2013 would be somewhere around $439 to $445 billion. So I think it is a fair question to ask, how would you get that number down to zero?

MCCAIN: First, I suggest you check in with other organizations. But the fact is there's a whole lot of economists, including Nobel laureates that agree with my plan. We're going to reach restrained spending, we're going to have the economy grow again and increase revenues. The problem is that spending got completely out of control. We grew government by some 40% since the Great Society. The spending got out of control, we restrained spending, we keep people's taxes low. We create jobs, 700,000 jobs by building new nuclear power plants, 20,000 new jobs by coal gasification, so that we have clean coal technologies, new automotive technologies, and we'll balance the budget. The same outfit said that we could never balance the budget in the past. We certainly have. It's spending that's out of control, my friend.

ROBERTS: I also checked with the Congressional Budget Office and the Center for Budget and Policy Priority's numbers were more conservative, they were lower than the CBO's numbers. The CBO's numbers are higher.

MCCAIN: Again, they're static numbers. Not saying that revenues will increase with a strong economy and with low taxes. That's the difference. and I respectfully disagree.

ROBERTS: Senator, you can't get over the fact, though, that extending the Bush tax cuts, as you want to do, and adding in your tax cuts do take the deficit number -- we actually go from a $70 billion surplus to a $445 billion deficit.

MCCAIN: You can't seem to get over the fact that it's... I'm glad to have this discussion with you"

ROBERTS: Do you have any idea --

MCCAIN: On the privatization of accounts, which you just mentioned, I would like to respond to that. I want young workers to be able to, if they choose, to take part of their own money, which is their taxes, and put it in an account which has their name on it. Now, that's a voluntary thing, it's for younger people, it would not affect any present-day retiree or the system as necessary. So let's describe it for what it is. They pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of president-day retirees. That's why it's broken, that's why we can fix it. We can do it together, Republicans and Democrats alike."

- There's so much that is based on flawed assumptions and flip-flops, I don't know where to begin. Bottom line: McCain has NO CLUE about the economy. NONE.

Kevin said...

Isn't Bush and his admin team in the same realm of economic policy as Sen. McCain-- "good international trade relations, low taxes on business and capital, reduced waste, etc.?" After all, he did say (and rather proudly) that he voted with the president "more than 90 percent of the time-- more," he said, "than any of [his] fellow Republicans." So, where is the healthy economy that should have resulted from this economic philosophy?

The real question, it seems to me, is: will doing more of what we've done over the last 8 years produce a different result?

rainier said...

For Economists for Obama

Please say something to refute the McCain's criticism of spread the wealth. Disprove that McCain line of taking your money and giving to someone else.

I think the polls are tightening because this resonates with people.

McCain is basically promising no taxes at all as in giving tax cuts for everyone, but without saying where he will get it. That will raise the deficits and debts even more.

what? tax cuts help create jobs? growth? trickle down? sounds like voodoo.

Modey3's Materials Science Blog said...

Nobody has discussed that economics is an inexact science. There are many different opinions, which are governed by fundamental philosophical beliefs. I am a materials scientist and even in my field are there disagreements when it comes to really complicated systems. In economics, the system of study is very complicated so to make blanket statements that Stimulus A gives Outcome B shows a lack of understanding of the complex system.

The economy will be healthy no matter who gets elected because either fiscal policies won't exactly have the desired or undesired effects that were predicted. What really matters is how the government plans to handle private businesses. If you prefer more govt control vote for Obama and if you want a hands off approach vote McCain, but to take the predicted outcomes as gospel is wrong no matter which side you prefer.