Elections: Tax Cut Versus Lockbox: Did the Voters Grasp the Tradeoff in 2000?


Martin P. Wattenberg is professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Where Have All the Voters Gone? and The Decline of American Political Parties, 1952-1996.


The central issue of the 2000 presidential campaign was how to allocate the projected federal budget surplus. George W. Bush proposed returning much of this revenue via an across-the-board reduction in federal income taxes. In contrast, Al Gore argued that most of the surplus should be put aside in a lockbox in order to bolster the Social Security and Medicare programs. This article finds that many voters failed to understand these alternatives, and even among the voters whose opinions matched up with a candidate the correspondence between one's vote and one's opinion was unimpressive.