The Politics of Gas Prices

PT asks:

Politicians have attempted to make hay out of rising gas prices for as long as I’ve been alive; and since gas prices can generally be relied upon to have a long-term trend which is upward, and fluctuations which are up (fast) and down (slow), this is an understandable impulse. That said: is there any evidence that attempts to make political hay out of gas prices have ever been successful? Even a little bit?

I think it’s difficult to know how you would test this. High gasoline prices have a negative impact on macroeconomic conditions in the United States, and poor economic conditions have a meaningful impact on election outcomes. Since politicians invariably try to make hay out of gas prices, we don’t have a good control case about what would happen if everyone just forgot to mention the issue. My guess is that the precise quality of the hay that’s made has no real impact over and above the impact of overall economic conditions but that failure to address the subject would signal to people that you’re oddly out of touch. But since nobody’s out of touch enough to fail to address it, we don’t have a good experiment.