Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 November 2017
Despite widely held views on fiscal adjustment as a political minefield for government parties, the empirical literature on the issue has been surprisingly inconclusive. A crucial variable that has been often overlooked in the debate is partisan politics. Building on the micro-logic of Albert Hirschman’s ‘exit, voice, and loyalty’ framework, this article offers a novel theoretical perspective on the conditioning impact of partisan government in the electoral arena. Due to their more limited exit options at their disposal, left-wing voters are less likely to inflict electoral punishment on their parties, offering the latter an electoral advantage over their right-wing rivals. Relying on the largest cross-national data set to date on the evolution of close to 100 parties’ popularity ratings in 21 democracies, time-series–cross-section results confirm this electoral advantage. Somewhat paradoxically, while center-right government parties systematically lose popularity in years of fiscal adjustment, no such regularity is found for left-leaning incumbents.