The six months before Election Day make a huge difference:
Voters appear not to be answering Reagan's question, "are you better off than you were four years ago?" Instead, they are answering the question, "are you better off than you were six months ago?" Why are voters seemingly so shortsighted? In a working paper, Andy Healy and I propose and test an explanation based on recent research in psychology. Since the early 1990s, psychologists have reported a surprising finding. When retrospectively assessing experiences, people often rely on the end. In one of the better-known examples, patients evaluated their pain during a colonoscopy, not on the overall experience, but on the pain experienced at the peak and the end.