Rising gas prices have appeared to immediately weigh on President Barack Obama’s approval ratings, leading political analysts to question whether a further increase in gas prices could compromise his early lead in the 2012 election.
This graph from Trevor Houser, a partner at the Rhodium Group and an energy and natural resources specialist, appears to suggest that the relationship between voting preferences and oil is incredibly strong.
A chart plotting political analyst Charlie Cook’s Partisan Voting Index against gasoline expenditures as a share of personal income demonstrates the tight relationship between how much voters spend on gas and how they vote.
Houser explains that Republicans devote a higher share of their income to gasoline purchases than Democrats despite the fact that they actually pay less per gallon:
“It’s not the price of gasoline alone that matters to drivers, but how much they buy. And while my parents in Wyoming get the cheapest gas in the country, they have to drive six hours each way to find a half-decent shopping mall.”
We can’t assume there’s a causal relationship between gasoline share of expenditures and voter preference (i.e. the trend line could just shift higher), there very well could be. Thus rising gas prices would eat up a higher share of consumer expenditures across the board, shifting the data set up and to the left along the trend line.
The result: fewer Democrats, more Republicans. Probably bad for Obama.