Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55b6f6c457-z8dxg Total loading time: 0.303 Render date: 2021-09-23T22:01:06.808Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

The electoral advantage of the left in times of fiscal adjustment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 November 2017

Abel Bojar*
European University Institute, Firenze, Italy


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.

Research Article
© European Consortium for Political Research 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adams, J. and Somer-Topcu, Z. (2009), ‘Policy adjustment by parties in response to rival parties’ policy shifts: spatial theory and the dynamics of party competition in twenty-five post-war democracies’, British Journal of Political Science 39: 825846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alesina, A. (1988), ‘Credibility and policy convergence in a 2-party system with rational voters’, American Economic Review 78(4): 796805.Google Scholar
Alesina, A. and Perotti, R. (1997), ‘Fiscal adjustments in OECD countries: composition and macroeconomics effects’, International Monetary Fund Staff Papers 44(2): 210248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alesina, A., Perotti, R. and Tavares, J. (1998), ‘The political economy of fiscal adjustments’, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 29(1): 197266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Alesina, A., Ardagna, S. and Trebbi, F (2006), ‘Who adjusts and when? The political economy of reforms’, IMF Staff Papers 53: 129.Google Scholar
Alesina, A., Carloni, D. and Lecce, G. (2011), ‘The electoral consequences of large fiscal adjustments’. NBER Working Papers No. 17655, Cambridge, US.Google Scholar
Armingeon, K. and Giger, N. (2008), ‘Conditional punishment: a comparative analysis of the electoral consequences of welfare state retrenchment in OECD nations, 1980-2003’, West European Politics 31: 3 558580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bakker, R, Edwards, E., Hooghe, L., Jolly, S., Koedam, J., Kostalka, F., Marks, G., Polk, J., Rovny, J., Schumacher, G., Steenbergen, M., Vachudova, M. and Zilovic, M. (2015), ‘1999-2014 Chapel Hill Expert Survey Trend File’, Version. 1.1. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina. Retrieved 15 January 2017 from Scholar
Barrios, S. and Rizza, P. (2010), ‘Unexpected changes in tax revenues and the stabilisation function of fiscal policy: evidence for the European Union 1999-2008’. European Commission Economic Papers No. 404, Barrios.Google Scholar
Beck, N. (2001), ‘Time-series-cross-section-data: what have we learned in the past few years?’, Annual Review of Political Science 4: 271293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beck, N and Katz, J.N. (1995), ‘What to do (and not to do) with time-series cross-section data’, American Political Science Review 89(3): 634647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bellucci, P. and Lewis-Beck, M.S. (2011), ‘A stable popularity function? Cross-national analysis’, European Journal of Political Research 50: 2 190211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Benoit, K. and Laver, M. (2006), Party Policy in Modern Democracies, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Blochliger, H., Song, S.D. and Sutherland, D. (2012), ‘Fiscal consolidation part 4. Case studies of large fiscal consolidation episodes’. OECD Economics Department Working Papers No, 935, Paris.Google Scholar
Boix, C. (2000), ‘Partisan governments, the international economy, and macroeconomic policies in advanced nations, 1960-93’, World Politics 53(1): 3873.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bouteca, N. and Devos, C. (2016), ‘Party policy change. Exploring the limits of ideological flexibility in Belgium’, Acta Politica 51(3): 293327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brambor, T., Clark, W.R. and Golder, M. (2006), ‘Understanding interaction models: improving empirical analyses’, Political Analysis 14(1): 6382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brender, A. (2003), ‘The effect of fiscal performance on local government election results in Israel: 1989-1998’, Journal of Public Economics 87(9–10): 21872205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brender, A. and Drazen, A. (2008), ‘How do budget deficits and economic growth affect reelection prospects? Evidence from a large panel of countries’, American Economic Review 98(5): 22032220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Camia, V. and Caramani, D. (2012), ‘Family meetings: ideological convergence within party families across Europe, 1945-2009’, Comparative European Politics 10(1): 4885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Campbell, A., Converse, P.A., Miller, W.E. and Stokes, D.E. (1966), The American Voter, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
Clarke, H.D. and Stewart, M.C. (1998), ‘The decline of parties in the minds of citizens’, Annual Review of Political Science 1: 357378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cukierman, A. and Tommasi, M. (1998), ‘When does it take a Nixon to go to China?’, American Economic Review 88(1): 180197.Google Scholar
Cusack, T. (1999), ‘Partisan politics and fiscal policy’, Comparative Political Studies 32(4): 464486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cusack, T. (2001), ‘Partisanship in the setting and coordination of fiscal and monetary policies’, European Journal of Political Research 40(1): 93115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dassonneville, R., Blais, A and Dejaghere, Y. (2015), ‘Staying with the party, switching or exiting? A comparative analysis of determinants of party switching and abstaining’, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties 25(3): 387405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Devries, P., Guajardo, J., Leigh, D. and Pescatori, A. (2011), ‘A new action-based dataset of fiscal consolidation’, IMF Working Papers 11(128): 191.Google Scholar
Dewan, T. and Shepsle, K.A. (2011), ‘Political economy models of elections’, Annual Review of Political Science 14: 311330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dowding, K., John, P., Mergoupis, T. and Van Vugt, M. (2000), ‘Exit, voice and loyalty: analytic and empirical developments’, European Journal of Political Research 37(4): 469495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Downs, A. (1957), An Economic Theory of Democracy, New York: Harper.Google Scholar
Drazen, A. and Eslava, M. (2010), ‘Electoral manipulation via voter-friendly spending: theory and evidence’, Journal of Development Economics 92(1): 3952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Duch, R.M. (2007), ‘Comparative studies of the economy and the vote’, in C. Boix and S.C. Stokes (eds) Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 805844.Google Scholar
Eslava, M. (2011), ‘The political economy of fiscal deficits: a survey’, Journal of Economic Surveys 25(4): 645673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giavazzi, F. and Pagano, M. (1990), ‘Can severe fiscal contractions be expansionary – tales of 2 small European countries’, NBER Macroeconomics Annual 5: 75111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giger, N. (2012), ‘Is social policy retrenchment unpopular? How welfare reforms affect government popularity’, European Sociological Review 28(5): 691700.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giger, N. and Nelson, M. (2011), ‘The electoral consequences of welfare state retrenchment: blame avoidance or credit claiming in the era of permanent austerity?’, European Journal of Political Research 50(1): 123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grittersova, J, Indridason, I.H., Gregory, C. and Crespo, R. (2016), ‘Austerity and niche parties: the electoral consequences of fiscal reforms’, Electoral Studies 2: 276289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haan, J. and Klomp, J. (2013), ‘Conditional political budget cycles: a review of recent evidence’, Public Choice 157(3–4): 387410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halikiopoulou, D., Nanou, K. and Vasilopoulou, S. (2012), ‘The paradox of nationalism: the common denominator of radical right and radical left Euroscepticism’, European Journal of Political Research 51(4): 504539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hayo, B. and Neumeier, F. (2017), ‘Public attitudes toward fiscal consolidation: evidence from a representative German population survey’, Kyklos 70(1): 4269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hellwig, T. and Samuels, D. (2007), ‘Voting in open economies – the electoral consequences of globalization’, Comparative Political Studies 40(3): 283306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hibbs, D.A. (1977), ‘Political parties and macroeconomic policy’, The American Political Science Review 71(4): 14671487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hirschman, A.O. (1970), Exit, Voice, and Loyalty; Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Hix, S. and Marsh, M. (2007), ‘Punishment or protest? Understanding European parliament elections’, Journal of Politics 69(2): 495510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Illera, R.M. and Mulas-Granados, C. (2008), ‘What makes fiscal consolidations last? A survival analysis of budget cuts in Europe (1960-2004)’, Public Choice 134(3–4): 147161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Inglehart, Ronald (1977), The Silent Revolution : Changing Values and Political Styles Among Western Publics, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Katz, R.S. and Mair, P. (2009), ‘The Cartel party thesis: a restatement’, Perspectives on Politics 7(4): 753766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kitschelt, H. (1992), ‘The formation of party systems in east-central-Europe’, Politics & Society 20(1): 750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kitschelt, H. (1994), The Transformation of Social Democracy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kitschelt, H. (2001), ‘Partisan competition and welfare state retrenchment: when do politicians choose unpopular policies?’, in Paul Pierson (ed.) The New Politics of the Welfare State, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 265302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kittel, B. and Winner, H. (2005), ‘How reliable is pooled analysis in political economy? The globalization-welfare state nexus revisited’, European Journal of Political Research 44(2): 269293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Korpi, W. (2006), ‘Power resources and employer-centered approaches in explanations of welfare states and varieties of capitalism – protagonists, consenters, and antagonists’, World Politics 58(2): 167206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kriesi, H, Grande, E., Lachat, R., Dolezal, M., Bornschier, S. and Frey, T. (2006), ‘Globalization and the transformation of the national political space: six European countries compared’, European Journal of Political Research 45(6): 921956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Larsen, C.A. (2008), ‘Why welfare states persist: the importance of public opinion in democracies’, Perspectives on Politics 6(4): 839840.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Levy, J.D. (1999), ‘Vice into virtue? Progressive politics and welfare reform in continental Europe’, Politics & Society 27(2): 239273.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lewis-Beck, M.S. and Paldam, M. (2000), ‘Economic voting: an introduction’, Electoral Studies 19(2–3): 113121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lewis-Beck, M.S. and Nadeau, R. (2011), ‘Economic voting theory: testing new dimensions’, Electoral Studies 30(2): 288294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McAdam, D., Tarrow, S. and Tilly, C. (2001), Dynamics of Contention, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Monastiriotis, V. (2014), ‘(When) does austerity work? On the conditional link between fiscal austerity and debt sustainability’, Cyprus Economic Policy Review 8(1): 7192.Google Scholar
Mulas-Granados, C. (2006), Economics, Politics and Budgets: The Political Economy of Fiscal Consolidations in Europe, Basingstoke, England and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Olson, M. (1965), The Logic of Collective Action; Public Goods and the Theory of Groups, Harvard Economic Studies Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Page, B.I. and Brody, R.A. (1972), ‘Policy voting and electoral process – Vietnam war issue’, American Political Science Review 66(3): 979995.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pardos-Prado, S. (2015), ‘How can mainstream parties prevent niche party success? Center-right parties and the immigration issue’, Journal of Politics 77(2): 352367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peltzman, S. (1992), ‘Voters as fiscal conservatives’, Quarterly Journal of Economics 107(2): 327361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pierson, Paul (1994), Dismantling the Welfare State? : Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment, Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics Cambridge, England and New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Powell, G.B. and Whitten, G.D. (1993), ‘A cross-national analysis of economic voting – taking account of the political context’, American Journal of Political Science 37(2): 391414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rennwald, L. and Evans, G. (2014), ‘When supply creates demand: social democratic party strategies and the evolution of class voting’, West European Politics 37(5): 11081135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rodrik, D. (2016), ‘The surprising thing about the backlash against globalization’. World Economic Forum. Retrieved 16 March 2017 from Scholar
Ross, F. (2000), ‘“Beyond left and right”: the new partisan politics of welfare’, Governance – An International Journal of Policy and Administration 13(2): 155183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rovny, J. (2014), ‘Communism, federalism, and ethnic minorities: explaining party competition patterns in Eastern Europe’, World Politics 66(4): 669708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schumacher, G., Vis, B. and van Kersbergen, K. (2013), ‘Political parties’ welfare image, electoral punishment and welfare state retrenchment’, Comparative European Politics 11(1): 121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Seeberg, H.B. (2013), ‘The opposition’s policy influence through issue politicisation’, Journal of Public Policy 33(1): 89107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stegmaier, M. and Lewis-Beck, M.S. (2011), ‘Shocks and oscillations: the political economy of Hungary’, Electoral Studies 30(3): 462467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stix, H. (2013), ‘Does the broad public want to consolidate public debt? – the role of fairness and of policy credibility’, Kyklos 66(1): 102129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tavares, J. (2004), ‘Does right or left matter? Cabinets, credibility and fiscal adjustments’, Journal of Public Economics 88(12): 24472468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taylor-Gooby, P., Larsen, T. and Kananen, J. (2004), ‘Market means and welfare ends: the UK welfare state experiment’, Journal of Social Policy 33: 573592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tilly, C. and Tarrow, S. (2015), Contentios Politics, 2nd edn., Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Vachudova, M.A. (2008), ‘Tempered by the EU? Political parties and party systems before and after accession’, Journal of European Public Policy 15(6): 861879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
van Biezen, I. and Poguntke, T. (2014), ‘The decline of membership-based politics’, Party Politics 20(2): 205216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Veiga, F.J. and Veiga, L.G. (2004), ‘The determinants of vote intentions in Portugal’, Public Choice 118(3–4): 341364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vis, B. and Van Kersbergen, K. (2013), ‘Towards an open functional approach to welfare state change: pressures, ideas, and blame avoidance’, Public Administration 91(4): 840854.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
von Hagen, J., Hallett, A.H. and Strauch, R. (2002), ‘Budgetary consolidation in Europe: quality, economic conditions, and persistence’, Journal of the Japanese and International Economies 16(4): 512535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
von Oorschot, W. (2000), ‘Who should get what, and why? On deservingness criteria and the conditionality of solidarity among the public’, Policy and Politics 28(1): 3348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weber, T. (2011), ‘Exit, voice, and cyclicality: a micrologic of midterm effects in European parliament elections’, American Journal of Political Science 55(4): 906921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weschle, S. (2014), ‘Two types of economic voting: how economic conditions jointly affect vote choice and turnout’, Electoral Studies 34: 3953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zaslove, A. (2008), ‘Exclusion, community, and a populist political economy: the radical right as an anti-globalization movement’, Comparative European Politics 6(2): 169189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zohlnhöfer, R. (2007), ‘The politics of budget consolidation in Britain and Germany: the impact of blame avoidance opportunities’, West European Politics 30(5): 11201138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The electoral advantage of the left in times of fiscal adjustment
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

The electoral advantage of the left in times of fiscal adjustment
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

The electoral advantage of the left in times of fiscal adjustment
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *