The Public’s Economic Knowledge

by Patrick Appel

Gabriel Lenz tests it. Among the results:

I asked about the number of recessions the US experienced in the last 50 years…The actual number of recessions the US has experienced in the last 50 years is about eight: one in 1960s, two in the 1970s, two in the 1980s, one in the 1990s, and two in the 2000s. However, about 70% answered between zero and five, and 26% picked between zero and two. Only about 20% chose the correct range, which was 6 to 10. This misperception may help us understand why voters throw out incumbent presidents during downturns. When the economy happens to experience a downturn in an election year—as it did in 1980 and 2008—they see it as an unusual event with ominous implications, not realizing that recessions regularly occur. As a result, they may more often vote against the incumbent party.

(Hat tip: Sides)