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Voter Responses to Fiscal Austerity

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Hübscher Evelyne, Sattler Thomas, Wagner Markus,
Project Contingent signals: The political preconditions for successful economic stabilisation
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal British Journal of Political Science
Page(s) 1 - 10
Title of proceedings British Journal of Political Science
DOI 10.1017/s0007123420000320

Open Access

Type of Open Access Repository (Green Open Access)


AbstractGovernments have great difficulties designing politically sustainable responses to rising public debt. These difficulties are grounded in a limited understanding of the popular constraints during periods of fiscal pressure. For instance, an influential view claims that fiscal austerity does not entail significant political risk. But this research potentially underestimates the impact of austerity on votes because of strategic selection bias. This study addresses this challenge by conducting survey experiments in Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK and Germany. In contrast to previous findings, the results show that a government's re-election chances greatly decrease if it proposes austerity measures. Voters object particularly strongly to spending cuts and, to a lesser extent, to tax increases. While voters also disapprove of fiscal deficits, they weight the costs of austerity policies more than their potential benefits for the fiscal balance. These findings are inconsistent with the policy recommendations of international financial institutions.