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Clinton claims economy is better under Democrats

Posted at 4:50 PM, Apr 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 22:22:23-04

Is a Democrat in the White House a sign of a better economy? 

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said as much at her rally in Phoenix March 21

"The economy always does better when there's a Democrat in the White House," Clinton said. 

"The economy always does better when there's a Democrat in the White House."

The Democratic front runner looks to be in a tighter race against rival Bernie Sanders after his win in Wisconsin Tuesday night. 

We put her statement through a PolitiFact truth check.

Other factors involved

Clinton’s Arizona spokesman, Tim Hogan, pointed us to a July 2014 study on the topic from Princeton University economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson.

The study concludes that Democratic presidents do have more Gross Domestic Product growth than Republicans, according to quarterly GDP data dating back to 1947, when the data was first tracked.

However, the economists point out that there are other factors, such as oil prices and international conditions, that could be driving these numbers for Democratic presidents. In short, Democrats occupying the Oval Office tend to have a little better luck.

Experts we spoke with largely held the same views.

Christian Weller, a public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, did his own math on the GDP data since 1947.

He found that the economy, through the last quarter of 2015 and after inflation, grew 3.8 percent under Democrats and 2.4 percent under Republicans.

For President Barack Obama, the growth rate in his first term was 1.8 percent. His current growth rate is 2 percent, but that’s still higher than his predecessor, George W. Bush. And his second term hasn’t ended yet.

Based on estimates, Weller said Obama should hit the 2.4 percent Republican average. Still, Ronald Reagan’s 3.4 percent growth rate is well ahead of the economy right now under Obama.

“Other than Obama, every Democrat had a faster growth rate, even (Jimmy) Carter had a slightly higher growth rate than Reagan,” Weller said. “This is one of the safest talking points for a Democratic contender.”

However, the asterisks bother Arizona State University presidential historian Brooks Simpson.

“Secretary Clinton is not exactly telling the whole truth,’” Simpson said.

Simpson referenced Bill Clinton’s administration, noting that he benefited from some of the economic policies of his predecessor, Republican George H.W. Bush. A 2011 report from the right-leaning Heritage Foundation notes that the economy was already in its “22nd month of expansion” when Bill Clinton took office in January 1993.

Our ruling

Hillary Clinton said, “the economy always does better when there’s a Democrat in the White House.”

Yes, Democratic presidents do have more Gross Domestic Product growth than Republicans, according to quarterly GDP data dating back to 1947.

But Clinton's comments require several caveats. The current growth in the economy under Obama is lower than the Republican average. Factors such as oil prices also reflect the higher GDP growth under Democratic presidents. On top of that, comparing one period of time to another or one president to another can be problematic.

On balance, we rate Clinton's claim Half True.

Null

For the complete fact-check, visit our news partner, PolitiFact Arizona.