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Politics & Government

Gas prices, elections, and seasonal coincidence

conspiracy-of-rats-jorge-gonzalez-flickr.jpg
Jorge Gonzalez
/
Flickr

We thought about having a week dedicated to debunking conspiracy theories, but we're not Snopes nor are we The Onion.

But one theory that we just couldn't let go of, that continues to circulate, lent itself to some easy debunking.

The myth? That Americans see a fall in gas prices at election time.

national-gas-prices.jpg
Credit Gas Buddy
National historic gas prices with presidential and mid-term elections noted in red

It's easy to assume that there's some big conspiracy theory to make gas prices decline right before we go to the polls.

But, to paraphrase Patrick DeHaan at Gas Buddy, duh, no, gas prices don't drop so that politicians can look good at election time. 

There is no clear correlation between gas prices and elections. That myth is contradicted by a number of factors.

DeHann says seasonal changes, for instance, have more of an impact.

flint-gas-prices.jpg
Credit Gas Buddy
Flint historical gas prices with presidential and mid-term elections noted in red

We can also look to research and academic studies. For example, Yale economist Ray C. Fair's work on predicting presidential elections, finds our sense of whether the economy is getting better or worse around election time shapes our perception of the price of gas.

In any year, election or not, we can count on gas prices to drop in the fall and rise in time for summer travel.

Of course,  politicians taking credit or placing blame for those fluctuations is just about as regular as, well, the seasons.

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