Economic voting in Europe: Did the crisis matter?
Recent voting behavior literature is concerned with the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis. During 2008–2009, most European countries faced a considerable slowdown in economic growth and an increase in unemployment levels. Theoretically, this would lead us to expect strong economic effects on incumbent support. However, recent academic work suggests that diminishing clarity of responsibility makes it increasingly difficult for voters to attribute blame for economic outcomes, consequently making punitive voting less likely. Has the sanctioning-rewarding mechanism then changed over time? Was economic voting more or less pronounced during the crisis than it was prior to the economic downturn? Analyzing the European Election Studies (EES) data for 12 Western European countries in 1989, 1994, 2004, 2009 and 2014, this paper finds support for neither proposition: there is very little abrupt change in economic effects over time. The statistical relationship between the economy and voting remained remarkably constant and was not subject to short-term fluctuations, even after the most dramatic economic recession in our lifetime. The stability of economic voting is particularly noteworthy considering that levels of voter dissatisfaction with national economic performance skyrocketed in 2009.
Keywordseconomic voting incumbent support economic crisis Europe
I would like to thank Michael S. Lewis-Beck, Piret Ehin, Kristjan Vassil and Thomas Biegert, as well as three anonymous referees for their insightful, detailed and constructive comments. Large parts of this work were conducted at the University of Tartu and were supported by the Doctoral School of Behavioural, Social and Health Sciences and the Archimedes Foundation.
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