According to much of the voluminous literature on economic voting, governments are rewarded or punished for their economic policies as a consequence of economic changes. Economic problems decrease the chance of re-election, whereas good times improve the incumbent’s chances. The last three national elections in Norway give evidence to the contrary. In the 2001 and 2005 elections all economic indicators pointed upwards, but the governments were nevertheless voted out of office. In 2009 the international financial crisis challenged the Norwegian economy, but the government was still re-elected. We argue that this must be explained by introducing two new factors into the economic voting argument: the role of the media and the role of popular expectations. According to the sociotropic voter argument, voters assess the national economy, rather than their personal economy, when they decide how to vote. We argue that sociotropic voters rely heavily on the media as their source of information. In a complex economy, the voter’s personal experience is of little relevance when it comes to assessing the government’s economic policies. The media also form people’s expectations. In 2001 and 2005 expectations exceeded the economic output, whereas in 2009, the public’s expectations were well below the government’s ability to deliver, creating a rare grace period for the governing parties. A content analysis of two major newspapers demonstrates that the financial crisis dominated the media agenda for more than three months, and that the tone in the coverage was positive towards the government during this period. A significant change in party support in this period is demonstrated through auto-regressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) modeling of a time series based on opinion polls.
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