The Political Consequences of the Great Recession

The global financial crisis ushered in a period of economic instability, which heightened distributive conflicts and increased the salience of many economic policies. Still, the political consequences of the crisis differed across countries and political contexts. I was a member of the ERC-funded research project POLCON which was led by Hanspeter Kriesi and which studied the different political consequences of the Great Recession. The project combined a comparative-static analysis of 30 European countries with a dynamic analysis of political conflict in 12 countries. For this purpose, we studied both elections and political protest in the shadow of the Great Recession and analyzed the issue-specific public interaction between both political arenas. The key question that the project addressed was whether the Great Recession changed the long-term trends of political conflict in Europe. For this purpose, we utilized survey data as well as original content analysis of protest events, election campaigns, and issue-specific public contestations.

As part of this project, my research examined how the Great Recession influenced political competition in Europe. For example, I was responsible for analyzing the consequences of the economic crisis on electoral and protest politics in 30 European countries, focusing on the interactions between the two political arenas. This research, conducted jointly with Swen Hutter and Hanspeter Kriesi, highlights that the Great Recession destabilized the European party system and that this dynamic was reinforced by feedback effects between protest and electoral politics. To better understand these consequences, I also zoomed in and studied the political consequences of the most contested economic policies during the crisis: austerity and structural reforms. My research co-authored with Abel Bojar, Hanspeter Kriesi, and Chendi Wang shows that, on average, austerity packages hurt the popularity of incumbent parties. Yet, this effect was highly contingent on the economic and political context: in instances of rising unemployment, the involvement of external creditors, and high protest intensity, the cumulative impact of austerity on government popularity was especially high.

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