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Modeling Macro-Political Dynamics

  • Patrick T. Brandt (a1) and John R. Freeman (a2)


Analyzing macro-political processes is complicated by four interrelated problems: model scale, endogeneity, persistence, and specification uncertainty. These problems are endemic in the study of political economy, public opinion, international relations, and other kinds of macro-political research. We show how a Bayesian structural time series approach addresses them. Our illustration is a structurally identified, nine-equation model of the U.S. political-economic system. It combines key features of the model of Erikson, MacKuen, and Stimson (2002) of the American macropolity with those of a leading macroeconomic model of the United States (Sims and Zha, 1998; Leeper, Sims, and Zha, 1996). This Bayesian structural model, with a loosely informed prior, yields the best performance in terms of model fit and dynamics. This model 1) confirms existing results about the countercyclical nature of monetary policy (Williams 1990); 2) reveals informational sources of approval dynamics: innovations in information variables affect consumer sentiment and approval and the impacts on consumer sentiment feed-forward into subsequent approval changes; 3) finds that the real economy does not have any major impacts on key macropolity variables; and 4) concludes, contrary to Erikson, MacKuen, and Stimson (2002), that macropartisanship does not depend on the evolution of the real economy in the short or medium term and only very weakly on informational variables in the long term.


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Authors' note: A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, and at a seminar at the College of William and Mary. The authors thank Janet Box-Steffensmeier, Harold Clarke, Brian Collins, Chetan Dave, Larry Evans, Jeff Gill, Simon Jackman, and Ron Rappoport for useful feedback and comments. Replication materials, additional appendices, and additional results are available on the Political Analysis Web site or from P.T.B. The authors are solely responsible for the contents.



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Modeling Macro-Political Dynamics

  • Patrick T. Brandt (a1) and John R. Freeman (a2)


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