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The effects of austerity in response to financial crises are widely contested and assumed to cause significant electoral backlash. Nonetheless, governments routinely adopt austerity when confronting economic downturns and swelling deficits. We explore this puzzle by distinguishing public acceptance of austerity as a general approach and support for specific austerity packages. Using original survey data from five European countries, we show that austerity is in fact the preferred response among most voters. We develop potential explanations for this surprising preference and demonstrate the empirical limitations of accounts centered on economic interests or an intuitive framing advantage. Instead, we show that the preference for austerity is highly sensitive to its political backers and precise composition of spending cuts and tax hikes. Using a novel approach to estimate support for historical austerity programs, we contend that governments’ strategic crafting of policy packages is a key factor underlying the support for austerity.
Which factors explain voters’ evaluations of policy responses to economic shocks? We explore this question in the context of mass preferences over the distribution of disaster relief and evaluate three fairness-based explanations related to affectedness, need, and political ties. We analyze experimental data from an original survey conducted among American citizens and find that affectedness and need are key drivers of voters’ preferred disaster responses. We then compare these patterns with observed disaster relief distributions (1993–2008). The results suggest that observed relief allocations largely mirror the structure of voter preferences with respect to affectedness and need, but not to political ties. These findings have implications for an ongoing debate over the electoral effects of natural disasters, voters’ retrospective evaluations of incumbent performance, and the extent to which divide-the-dollar politics decisions align with mass preferences.
Voters tend to be richer, more conservative, and more educated than non-voters. While many electoral reforms promise to increase political participation, these policy instruments may have multidimensional and differential effects that can increase or decrease the representativeness of turnout. We develop an approach that allows us to estimate these effects and assess the impact of postal voting on representational inequality in Swiss referendums using individual-level (
$N = 79\comma\; 000$
) and aggregate-level data from 1981 to 2009. We find that postal voting mobilizes equally across a wide range of political and sociodemographic groups but more strongly activates high earners, those with medium education levels, and less politically interested individuals. Yet, those who vote are not less politically knowledgeable and the effects on the composition of turnout remain limited. Our results inform research on the consequences of electoral reforms meant to increase political participation in large electorates.
When do societies succeed in providing public goods? Previous research suggests that public goods contributions correlate with expectations about cooperation by others among students and other demographic subgroups. However, we lack knowledge about whether the effect of expected cooperation is causal and a general feature of populations. We fielded representative surveys (N = 8,500) in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States that included a public goods game and a novel between-subjects experiment. The experiment varied expectations about cooperation by others. We find that higher expected cooperation by others causes a significant increase in individual contributions. When classifying contribution schedules, we find that almost 50% of the population employs a conditionally cooperative strategy. These individuals are on average richer, younger, and more educated. Our results help explain the varying success of societal groups in overcoming cooperation problems and assist policymakers in the design of institutions meant to solve social dilemmas.
Mitigating climate change requires countries to provide a global public good. This means that the domestic cleavages underlying mass attitudes toward international climate policy are a central determinant of its provision. We argue that the industry-specific costs of emission abatement and internalized social norms help explain support for climate policy. To evaluate our predictions we develop novel measures of industry-specific interests by cross-referencing individuals’ sectors of employment and objective industry-level pollution data and employing quasi-behavioral measures of social norms in combination with both correlational and conjoint-experimental data. We find that individuals working in pollutive industries are 7 percentage points less likely to support climate co-operation than individuals employed in cleaner sectors. Our results also suggest that reciprocal and altruistic individuals are about 10 percentage points more supportive of global climate policy. These findings indicate that both interests and norms function as complementary explanations that improve our understanding of individual policy preferences.
A large literature argues that public opinion is vulnerable to various types
of framing and cue effects. However, we lack evidence on whether existing
findings, which are typically based on lab experiments involving
low-salience issues, travel to salient and contentious political issues in
real-world voting situations. We examine the relative importance of issue
frames, partisan cues, and their interaction for opinion formation using a
survey experiment conducted around a highly politicized referendum on
immigration policy in Switzerland. We find that voters responded to frames
and cues, regardless of their direction, by increasing support for the
position that is in line with their pre-existing partisan attachment. This
reinforcement effect was most visible among low knowledgeable voters that
identified with the party that owned the issue. These results support some
of the previous findings in the political communication literature, but at
the same time also point toward possible limits to framing effects in the
context of salient and contested policy issues.
Conventional wisdom holds that the creation of international, court-like institutions helps countries to peacefully settle trade conflicts, thereby enhancing overall welfare. Many have argued, however, that these institutions remain ultimately ineffective because they merely reflect the distribution of power in the anarchic international system. We argue that international litigation provides economic spillovers that create opportunities for judicial free-riding and explore empirically how litigation in the World Trade Organization affects bilateral trade between countries involved in a trade dispute. We use a matching approach to compare the dynamics of trade flows between countries that experienced a panel ruling with trade relations of observably similar country pairs that did not experience a ruling. Based on this comparison we find that sectoral exports from complainant countries to the defendant increase by about $7.7 billion in the three years after a panel ruling. However, countries that have proactively filed a complaint and carried the main costs of litigation do not systematically gain more than less-active third parties that merely joined an existing trade dispute. This suggests that international judicial institutions can provide positive economic externalities and may thereby lead to a less power-based distribution of the gains from trade.
National governments have intensified their attempts to create international institutions in various policy fields such as the environment, finance and trade. At the same time, many subnational policy makers have begun to duplicate international efforts by setting their own, stricter policies while others remain inactive or enact more lax regulation. This ‘glocalization’ of policy creates a complex and potentially costly patchwork system of regulations. To shed light on this phenomenon, this article analyzes the interaction between subnational and national governments within a game-theoretic model of international treaty negotiations. The glocalization of regulatory policy can be understood as an attempt by subnational policy makers to strategically constrain or empower national governments in international negotiations. The study finds that the shadow of international treaty formation gives rise to within-country and cross-country policy balancing dynamics that may explain some of the subnational policy polarization that is currently observable in many countries. The article specifies the conditions under which these dynamics occur, spells out empirically testable hypotheses and identifies possible theoretical extensions.
The results of deliberations in multilateral fora are often considered ineffective. Decision making in the European Union (EU) and in particular its key intergovernmental body, the European Council, poses no exception. Especially in the domain of EU foreign and security affairs, the unanimity requirement governing this institution allegedly allows nationalist governments to torpedo any attempt to build up a credible European defense force and a unified foreign policy stance. In this article, we take issue with the claim that multilateral summits merely result in “hot air” by looking at whether and how decisions made during EU summit meetings affect the European defense industry. We argue that investors react positively to a successful strengthening of Europe's military component—a vital part of the intensified cooperation within the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP)—since such decisions increase the demand for military products and raise the expected profits in the European defense industry. Our findings lend empirical support to the view that financial markets indeed evaluate the substance of European Council meetings and react positively to those summit decisions that consolidate EU military capabilities and the ESDP. Each of the substantial council decisions studied increased the value of the European defense sector by about 4 billion euros on average. This shows that multilateral decisions can have considerable economic and financial repercussions.
This study examines the relationships between democratic politics and systematic investment (or capital) risk. Low risk is crucial to any well-functioning economy, as it encourages capital investment, facilitates growth, and enhances overall economic performance. This article distinguishes preelectoral, postelectoral, and institutional factors and examines how these influence systematic investment risk using daily stock market data from Germany. The results suggest that more (less) favorable and reliable investment conditions during the incumbency of right (left)-leaning governments lead to lower (higher) investment risk. This partisan effect is stronger the more inflation increases and depends on whether government is unified or divided. Investors also anticipate the effect of government partisanship: systematic risk decreases (increases) if the electoral prospects of a right (left)-leaning government enhance. Finally, grand coalition governments as well as periods of coalition formation trigger higher investment risk.