New governments attributing to themselves economic success without paying any respect to lagged effects of economic policies of previous governments are probably as old as politics. (Exactly the same thing can be said about blame for downturns, recessions etc.)

But is the public generally aware of any such lags? I'd prefer if this was answered with opinion polls that ask abstract questions (i.e. not naming specific governments) because the latter kind of questioning may have a lot more confounders.

If there were some world-wide, or at least OECD-wide poll(s) on this matter that would be really nice, but failing that, I'd like to hear at least about surveys in major economic powers.

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    Note that there may be a considerable mismatch between judging a parties economic performance and answering the question 'is there a lag between economic policies and results' people tend to think things through more when "directed".
    – user19831
    Aug 23, 2018 at 11:10
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    The economy is complex and for all practical purposes impossible to predict. For every cause-effect relationship you think you know about, it may well be true, but there are a hundred other causes and effects happening at the same time. Your question betrays the assumption that you know current economic outcomes are a lagged effect of a prior government's policies. Instead of asking "is the public generally aware", you should ask the more humble question "does the public generally believe my theory."
    – user15103
    Oct 6, 2018 at 3:41

2 Answers 2


I think the answer here has to be: "yes and no".

A characteristic of social groups is that they favor talking about various issues using "in group terms" and dislike talking about those issues using "conflicting group terms". A consequence of this is that long term issues get discussed using different words in different groups of people. (And, the abstractions wind up having subtle and/or deep differences.)

So, for example, in some groups, what you describe as "lagged effects of economic policies" might be discussed in terms of morality where in other groups the same things would be discussed in terms of metrics, ... and... so on...

This tends to be a good thing (because all abstractions leak and, thus, are exploitable by malevolent and/or ignorant interests - we need checks and balances on our abstractions), but also tends to result in a variety of uncomfortable and/or unpleasant conversations.

In particular, people often seem to be completely ignorant of the what seem to be obvious economic issues, and/or seem to be making very bad decisions. Mostly this just means they're operating on a different time scale and/or have different focusses. But, also, it can mean that the person describing that perspective to you was inadequately informed and is getting crucial details wrong.

Then again, it can be worth remembering that economics itself is largely a collection of heuristics which have been useful in the past. It can never be a complete solution to any practical issue - it can only be an available tool and a part of how civilization works.

Long term issues are just plain difficult to deal with.


I think the answer is yes. There may in fact be polls supporting this, but they are typically highly slanted ones. In interpreting such polls, one really should consider the source and methods. With that said, I'll cite a recent (2018) poll, and reiterate the one non-partisan conclusion:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 54% of Likely U.S. Voters now say they do not trust the political news they are getting, up from last June’s previous high of 46%.

(Note that the sampling methodology used by Rasmussen Reports is questionable, and may in some locations be illegal because of the use of pre-prerecorded automated dialing. )

The quoted statement itself seems like political news! If we agree to accept the base non-partisan statistic, fine. But speculation as to why this is true doesn't serve to answer the question. A more productive approach to the question may be through classic philosophy (or even a bit of humor.)

In philosophy the ordering of events would fall under the heading of causality. While the general population may not know it by that term, it seems clear that it's been discussed for thousands of years. It seems generally accepted that an event has many causes, and all lie in its past.

Any discussion of causation requires a leap of intuition, but not a giant leap. It seems generally understood that effect cannot occur before cause. Anything else is generally considered in the realm of science fiction.

As to any specific economic assertion made, the maxim that correlation does not imply causation may be lesser known. Arguments otherwise are sometimes emotionally convincing, but are one of the long recognized logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc (Latin for "after this, therefore because of this.")

The general public in the US does not seem to study formal logic, and politicians make illogical statements frequently. But that doesn't mean the populous trusts the statements of politicians.

The common understanding of this is probably best reflected by more informal statements like "How do you tell when a politician is lying? (His lips are moving.)"

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