Preferences and Priorities Towards Fiscal and Social Policies under Constraints


Governments constantly face trade-offs. In times of “permanent austerity” (Pierson 1996; 2001), resources are scare which presents policy-makers with difficult choices. They have to fear electoral punishment because existing research shows that citizens support most forms of government spending, while they oppose taxation or government debt. Yet, we know very about public opinion towards trade-offs. Therefore, my research shifts the focus from peoples’ preferences towards peoples’ priorities.

First, in a joint research project, Reto Bürgisser and I study public opinion towards (i) fiscal policies (including government spending, taxation, and government debt) and (ii) social policies (including various forms of social investment and social consumption). The research project brings together our substantive interests in the politics of fiscal policies and the welfare state and it uses original conjoint and split-sample survey experiments in four European countries (Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK) to capture the multidimensionality of fiscal and social policies. Disentangling the preferences towards different policies in this way allows us to analyse the citizens’ priorities when they are confronted with some of the trade-offs that are inherent in policy-making.

Second, I further analyze public opinion towards different fiscal and social policies under constraints in different co-authored papers. For example, in a paper with Hanna Schwander, we use data from the European Social Survey and focus on Green voters to study the implications of the electoral realignment on the left in Europe for the welfare state. Based on the material self-interest and the ideological predisposition of Green voters, we argue and demonstrate that they are economically left voters but have different social policy preferences than social democratic voters.

Working papers:

Work in progress papers: