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16 February 2021

Financial crisis had lasting implications for establishment politics

Long-established political parties across Europe suffered significant and lasting drops in support after the Eurozone financial crisis as citizens reacted to a perceived lack of response to their concerns.

banking and finance seminars
Eurozone governments ran into trouble amid the global financial crisis.

Establishment parties in countries that were in receipt of large financial bailouts and their accompanying demands for fiscal reform were particularly affected, with the average vote share dropping from 77 per cent before bailouts (1991-2009) to just 55 per cent in the period after (2010-2019).

But the effect was also seen in countries which sponsored financial bailouts, with the mean vote share for establishment parties dropping from 60 per cent to 48 per cent in the same period.

The findings were revealed in a new article, Financial bailouts and the decline of establishment politics, published in Electoral Studies by Dr Rubén Ruiz-Rufino, from the Department of Political Economy.

In the paper, Dr Ruiz-Rufino argues that this fall in support for establishment parties can be partly explained by a period of “political learning”, in which citizens perceive that their policy demands and concerns go unheeded during uncertain uneconomic times while politicians chose economic responsibility and international commitments.

The study drew on individual data from the sixth round of the European Social Survey (ESS) and on data from 130 parliamentary and European elections that took place between 1991 and 2019 in countries that joined the European Monetary Union in the years 1999 and 2001.

Dr Ruiz-Rufino said: “Financial bailouts, when decided as a policy, affect the policy response of establishment parties but also citizens’ views about democracy.

“Establishment parties, whether in government or in opposition, face a dilemma between choosing policies demanded by citizens asking for further social protection to overcome economic hardship or honouring the institutional commitments previously made at the international level.”

“By supporting the adoption of bailouts as instruments to save the Euro, parties chose economic responsibility over policy responsiveness. Bailouts, then, become cognitive tools for citizens who learn that no policy differentiation exists between establishment parties and that elections no longer are mechanisms to choose among competing platforms.”

You can read the full paper here.

In this story

Rubén  Ruiz-Rufino

Reader in Comparative Politics