• The domestic economy and presidential success

     BY Eliza Keller

    (Originally published on March 11, 2010)

    In an effort to chart the U.S. economy in relation to each presidency, we did extensive research to determine the best measure of business cycles over time. In the end, the two data points we chose to best represent the ebb and flow of the U.S. economy were the most basic: consumer price index (CPI) and gross domestic product (GDP). Our chart, which appears in our poster Visual History of the American Presidency, calculates percent change per year for both measures and overlays the two.

    Attempting to display this data in relation to the presidency leads to the obvious question of the relative amount of control the president wields over the U.S. economy. With the rising influence of external multinational economic powerhouses like the EU, OPEC, and ASEAN, is economic strength (or weakness) really a valid measure of presidential success? Clinton and Reagan each presided over the most recent economic expansions and are two of the nation’s most popular presidents in recent history. Do they deserve the credit?

    We ultimately decided to include measures of CPI and GDP as an indicator of presidential success, but it seems that White House control over the domestic economy is waning as external forces challenge U.S. economic hegemony. For now, at least, the issue is prescient; leave your feedback for A Visual History of the American Presidency in the comments below!

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