Updated to include names of some other economists who did not sign yesterday’s anti-Trump letter but have elsewhere publicly stated they oppose Trump and/or endorse Clinton. Also updated charts to re-scale the x-axes so they’re all the same.
Yesterday saw the release of a letter, signed by 370 economists, denouncing Donald Trump and his tendency to promote “magical thinking and conspiracy theories over sober assessments of feasible economic policy options.” Several weeks earlier, a group of 305 economists had signed a separate letter denouncing Hillary Clinton’s “ill-advised economic agenda.”
I was curious about the overlap between these lists, and economists’ endorsements from prior elections. For example, how many of the 673 economists who endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012 were now turning against the 2016 Republican nominee?
A few findings:
• Of the 673 economists who signed a letter endorsing Romney in 2012, about 200 have signed onto the anti-Clinton letter this time around.
• Of the 673 economists who endorsed Romney in 2012, exactly one signed yesterday’s anti-Trump letter. That is Mario Rizzo, of New York University.
• In a separate letter signed only by Nobel laureates, however, Robert Lucas Jr. of the University of Chicago affirmatively endorsed Hillary Clinton; he had signed the pro-Romney letter in 2012. In August, the Wall Street Journal also reported on the candidate preferences of previous Council of Economic Advisers members. Several of those who said they oppose Trump had previously signed the 2012 pro-Romney letter (Martin Feldstein, William Poole, Jerry Jordan, Greg Mankiw). Thanks to readers who pointed out these omissions who hadn’t been on the anti-Trump letter. Let me know if there are other prominent pro-Romney/anti-Trump names I’ve missed, and I’ll continue to update the post.
• There is also exactly one person who signed both the anti-Trump letter and the anti-Clinton letter this year. That is also Mario Rizzo, of New York University.
• Here are stats showing schools/institutions best-represented on each list. The institution with the most names on the 2016 anti-Clinton list was George Mason University; the 2016 anti-Trump list, New York University; and the 2012 pro-Romney list, American Enterprise Institute.
Note that this doesn’t necessarily reflect which institutions’ members actually most support/reject various candidates. It may just reflect which institutions happened to have an employee enthusiastically circulating a letter around the office, or had members who saw pleas to sign a letter posted on Facebook. Additionally, in some cases institutions were rendered differently by different signatories (e.g., “NYU” vs. “New York University”); I tried to clean up the entries so that they matched correctly, but it’s possible I missed a few.
Finally, I wrote to Rizzo — again, the only economist to sign all three letters — to ask him whom he supports for president and why, and what he makes of being the only pro-Romney economist to sign the anti-Trump letter. He sent a thoughtful response explaining his reservations with both Trump’s and Clinton’s respective economic policies, and said he supports Gary Johnson. He added:
My thought is that most economists, as most voters, think they must choose between the two major candidates. And thus they have signed the letter against whom they perceive to be the greater of the two evils. But I think it can be a good idea to remind voters that both candidates need to be pushed in a better direction on economic matters even if a person ultimately decides to vote for the lesser evil. I also think that some would rather not condemn both candidates if they hope to get an advisory position with the lesser evil.
Then there is the matter of association. I did think twice about including my name along with some economists who have strong progressive instincts and who have never supported Republicans. Ultimately, this did not matter to me, although it may have for some who signed the anti-Clinton letter.
As to the Romney matter, I have no answer.
By the way, I’ve so far been unable to find a similar, comprehensive list of economists endorsing Barack Obama in 2012, so am unable to see how many Obama endorsers signed either the anti-Trump or anti-Clinton letters. If you’re aware of a public letter along these lines, please send it my way.