Modeling macro-political dynamics

Patrick T. Brandt, John R. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-142
Number of pages30
JournalPolitical Analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
National Science Foundation (grant numbers SES-0351179 to J.R.F., SES-0351205 and SES-0540816 to P.T.B.).


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