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Voter Responses to Fiscal Austerity

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Governments have great difficulties to design politically sustainable responses to rising public debt. These difficulties are grounded in a limited understanding of the popular constraints during times 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 voters because of strategic selection bias. To address this challenge, we conduct survey experiments in Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK and Germany. Contrary to the previous literature, the results show that the reelection chances of governments decrease massively when they propose 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.
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Voter Responses to Fiscal Austerity
Evelyne H¨ubscher
Central European University
huebschere@ceu.edu
Thomas Sattler
University of Geneva
thomas.sattler@unige.ch
Markus Wagner
University of Vienna
markus.wagner@univie.ac.at
Forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science
Abstract
Governments have great diculties to design politically sustainable responses
to rising public debt. These diculties are grounded in a limited understanding
of the popular constraints during times of fiscal pressure. For instance, an influen-
tial 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. To address this challenge, we conduct survey experiments
in Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK and Germany. Contrary to the previous literature,
the results show that the reelection chances of governments decrease massively when
they propose 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 recommenda-
tions of international financial institutions.
Keywords: fiscal policy; consolidation; debt; voting behaviour; elections; political
economy
Previous versions of this paper were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Euro-
pean Political Science Association, Vienna, June 21-23, 2018, and the Annual Meeting of
the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, April 5-8, 2018. We thank Cristina
Bodea, Mark Copelovitch, and Vera Tr¨oger for comments. Nicolai Berk, Jascha Gr¨ubel,
Alicia Lopez, Pedro Perfeito da Silva and Colin Walder provided great research sup-
port. The authors acknowledge financial support from the Thyssen Foundation, grant
no. 10.18.1.008PO. Thomas Sattler also acknowledges financial support from the Swiss
National Science Foundations, grant no. 165480.
1
“We overestimated the ability of Greece to actually endorse and take
ownership of measures that were needed, because we moved from one
government to another to another to another.” – IMF Director Chris-
tine Lagarde in an interview with Bloomberg Markets (2016).
When governments embarked on a path of austerity during the European debt crisis,
this strategy was met by strong public opposition. This opposition and the resulting po-
litical destabilization took the economic policy community by surprise. As the quote by
IMF Director Lagarde above indicates, many experts expected that governments would
be able to implement fiscal adjustment without major political disruptions. Empirically,
this expectation has received some support: previous studies find that fiscal adjustments
do not systematically reduce vote shares of governments or increase the risk of govern-
ment turnover (e.g., Alesina et al. 1998, Giger and Nelson 2011, Alesina et al. 2011,
Arias and Stasavage 2019).
Our analysis suggests that this previous research underestimates the electoral risk of
fiscal consolidations. These observational studies tell us what happened to those govern-
ments who could politically aord consolidation, but they do not capture electoral risk
in situations when weak governments strategically avoided these policies (Immergut and
Abou-Chadi, 2014; H¨ubscher and Sattler, 2017). It is possible that the negative impact
of austerity on votes would have been much more substantial if governments had imple-
mented austerity in a less strategic manner and purely based on economic fundamentals.
To avoid the pitfalls for empirical analyses created by such strategic behavior, we
conduct two sets of survey experiments in Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the UK.
The experimental analysis of voter preferences allows us to contrast the political conse-
quences of consolidation with the consequences of avoiding these policies while holding
other factors constant. This comparison provides a more accurate estimate of the true
political risks of consolidation, since fiscal retrenchment is not only observed for those
governments with the political capital to pursue such policies.
2
Our results show that voters are not fiscal conservatives, and that the electoral risk of
consolidations is much greater than often claimed. In all countries, the loss of electoral
support is smallest if the government avoids fiscal stabilization. Moreover, voters object
particularly strongly to fiscal stabilization through spending cuts – precisely the measure
often recommended by international economic institutions – and to a lesser extent to
tax increases. These results are in line with the claims of earlier political economy re-
search (Pierson,2001) and raise doubts about the adequacy of the most influential policy
recommendations during the European debt crisis.
Are Voters Fiscal Conservatives?
The idea that fiscal retrenchment has small costs and large benefits is deeply entrenched
in the major international economic institutions (Blyth 2013, see also the Appendix).
This view has been reinforced by an emerging consensus that austerity is also politically
uncontested among voters. Alesina et al. (1998) unambiguously answer the question
whether fiscal consolidation negatively aects elections with a “loud no” (p. 198). Giger
and Nelson (2011) even find that some parties gain votes after fiscal cuts. Arias and
Stasavage (2019)showthatausteritydoesnotincreasegovernmentturnoverandcon-
clude that “for those who believe austerity is detrimental to welfare our results pose a
problem” (p.1521). This literature is discussed in greater detail in the online Appendix.
Two core arguments drive this ‘new conventional wisdom’. The first suggests that
voters disapprove of deficit spending because large deficits have economic costs and con-
strain fiscal policy in the future (Brender and Drazen,2008; Hallerberg and Wol,2008;
Barnes and Hicks, 2018). The second argument claims that fiscal adjustments have mi-
nor economic costs because lower public spending is oset by higher private investment
(Alesina, Perotti and Tavares, 1998). Taken together, the two arguments imply that vot-
ers are fiscal conservatives (Peltzmann,1992): voters support fiscal adjustments because
they (a) heavily weight the costs of fiscal deficits and (b) understand that the costs of
3
fiscal adjustments in fact are small.
At the same time, these claims stand in stark contrast to recent experiences in many
European countries, such as Portugal, Ireland, and Spain. Theoretically, it also contra-
dicts the prevailing view in a separate strand in the political economy literature that fiscal
retrenchment bears substantial electoral risk (Pierson,2001). As we outline in greater
detail in the Appendix, there are good theoretical reasons why voters object to fiscal
austerity and electorally punish governments who implement them. Given this research,
it is surprising that no association between austerity and electoral backlash is found at
the aggregate level.
An Alternative Explanation: Strategic Selection Bias
How can the lack of empirical evidence for electoral punishment for austerity be ex-
plained? One explanation is that governments strategically avoid austerity in order to
minimize electoral costs. Governments associate austerity with substantial risk and use
a variety of strategies to avoid blame for these policies (Wenzelburger, 2011). A popular
strategy is to delay consolidations before an election or fully avoid them if the government
is politically vulnerable (Immergut and Abou-Chadi, 2014; H¨ubscher and Sattler, 2017;
ubscher, 2018).
This leads to a ‘strategic selection bias’ in existing studies: they underestimate the
electoral risk that stems from austerity because these policies generally are implemented
when governments are less vulnerable. The presence of such a bias means that auster-
ity impacts votes if governments implement these policies unstrategically and as recom-
mended by pro-austerity economists. In other words, if governments had implemented
austerity purely based on the state of economic fundamentals, then the negative impact
of austerity on votes for government parties would be significant. In reality, governments
strategically time and avoid austerity precisely because austerity impacts votes.1
1When vote intentions or higher frequency voting data are examined, we can see
4
An analysis of the impact of austerity on votes, thus, requires that governments im-
plementing austerity policies must be compared to identical, counterfactual governments
that avoid such policies in similar situations. The causal eect of austerity on votes then
is the dierence between the vote share for government parties after austerity compared
to the vote share for the same parties after no austerity under the same conditions. Given
the existence of strategic selection bias, observational data will rarely provide such com-
parisons. Here, we instead use an experimental analysis of fiscal policy preferences to
draw conclusions on how fiscal consolidation would have aected political outcomes in
situations when consolidations did not occur.
Research Design: Strategy and Countries
We use a vignette-based and a conjoint experiment, to address the challenge that the
strategic behavior of governments presents for the analysis of fiscal austerity. We exam-
ine the causal eect of dierent types of fiscal adjustment policies by treating respondents
with dierent policy scenarios. In particular, we present scenarios in which the govern-
ment proposes various changes to spending and taxes, including no adjustment at all.
Since respondents are randomly exposed to these scenarios, the dierence in their re-
sponses represent the political eect of one policy solution compared to another.
The vignette experiment is based on a simple design: it randomly assigns respondents
to read one of three dierent fiscal policy scenarios. The choice-based conjoint analysis
presents respondents with more complex vignettes that vary in many dierent fiscal pol-
icy attributes. This helps us to advance our understanding of respondents’ reaction to
austerity by disaggregating the highly stylized policy propositions of the first experiment.
In practice, fiscal adjustment packages are multi-dimensional and often (although not al-
that political support for the government drops after spending cuts (Sattler, Brandt and
Freeman, 2010;Talving,2017;Bojar et al.,2018; Fetzer, 2019). We also see strong eects
of austerity on votes when governments could not act strategically because austerity was
externally imposed.
5
ways) consist of a combination between dierent types of spending cuts and tax increases.
The survey experiments were conducted in five countries: Germany, Italy, Portugal,
Spain and the UK. In each country, we surveyed around 2,200 individuals. We selected
this diverse set of countries to enhance the external validity of our analysis. The significant
variation among these countries on crucial fiscal policy dimensions allows us to examine
to what extent our results depend on country-specific circumstances. The case selection
and experimental design are discussed in greater detail in the Appendix.
Study 1: Randomized Vignettes
Study 1 showed respondents three dierent fiscal scenarios. The vignettes include sim-
plified descriptions of actual public policy choices and how they are presented by govern-
ments. All scenarios put the countries in a clear context of fiscal pressure with a sizeable
budget deficit for a number of consecutive years.This implies that there is economic pres-
sure on the incumbent to take action. Then, a respondent is shown one of three possible
policy solutions proposed by the government.
The government proposed to either (a) decrease spending on public and social services;
(b) increase income taxation; or (c) keep spending and taxes unchanged. After reading
one of these scenarios, respondents were asked to what extent they would approve of this
announcement and whether they would vote for the prime minister in an election held
after this announcement. These questions serve as dependent variables in our analyses.
Figure 1 shows the raw distribution of vote intentions in response to the dierent
fiscal policy solutions proposed by governments in our scenarios. The left bars present
voter responses to announcements that the government will not change policy; the mid-
dle bars present responses to tax increases ; and the right bars present responses to social
and public spending cuts. The graphs clearly show that voters are less likely to support
governments that announce austerity policies. Voters punish governments most if they
6
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Figure 1: Vote intentions after fiscal policy decisions, by fiscal adjustment
type
announce spending cuts. Tax increases are electorally less costly than spending cuts, but,
with the exception of the UK and (to a lesser extent) Portugal, more costly than keeping
policy unchanged. In all countries, governments minimize electoral punishment if they
decide to do nothing.
Figure A2 in the Appendix shows that patterns using policy approval instead of vote
intentions are very similar. When we compare disapproval of fiscal adjustment with the
respective votes against governments who propose such policies, we find that the eect
of austerity on votes is smaller than the eect on disapproval. This is intuitive because
not all voters change their vote if they disapprove with one decision in one policy area.
To more r obu stly a naly se th e trea tment e ects in our vignettes, Figure 2 presents the
marginal eects given the occurrence of tax increases or spending cuts. In this and all
subsequent analyses, we control for whether the respondent supports the current gov-
ernment to account for the possibility that respondents associate the government in our
experiment with the current government in their country; results do not depend on the
7
inclusion of this control.2The graph shows the predicted probability of voting against
the government for dierent announcements, relative to doing nothing, the reference cat-
egory. In most countries, the probability of voting against the government increases up
to 10 percentage points after tax increases and up to 20 percentage points after spending
cuts. The probability after spending cuts increases by more than 25 percentage points in
Spain, but less than 10 percentage points in Portugal. As expected, the intention to vote
against the government is higher after the announcement of spending cuts or tax increases.
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Figure 2: Predicted eect of fiscal adjustment type on vote against government;
point predictions with 95% confidence interval.
The estimated eects from our analysis are fairly large compared to the influence of
economic policies on actual votes. This is because our survey isolates the eect of fiscal
policy on votes from other factors that influence voter behavior. In contrast, actual voting
decisions are the result of a combination of various factors, and fiscal policy is only one of
them. The impact of consolidations on actual voting, therefore, is smaller. Nonetheless,
the strong responses of respondents to our treatments indicate that they do care about
2Specifically, we measure this by controlling whether or not the respondent voted for
the current government in the previous election.
8
fiscal consolidation and take these policies into account (among other factors) when they
vote for or against the government.
Our experiments also allow us to examine which voters respond negatively to fiscal
consolidation. To do so, we first interact the fiscal policy treatments with voter ideol-
ogy.3The lines in Figure 3 show how the predicted probability of voting against the
government changes conditional on voter left-right ideology for each of the two scenarios,
relative to a policy of doing nothing. Consistent with the previous literature (Bechtel,
Hainmueller and Margalit, 2014), voter ideology strongly moderates the eect of fiscal
policy announcements on vote intentions. Votes against governments decrease in all coun-
tries after spending cuts for more right-wing voters. However, more right-wing voters still
punish governments, but to a lesser degree than left-wing voters do. We see the opposite
eect for tax increases, but this eect generally is weaker and often not statistically sig-
nificant.
Voters have to be relatively right-wing to react similarly to tax increases and spending
cuts: around 6 on the 0-10 scale in Portugal to almost 10 in Germany and Spain. In
the latter two countries, voters from the right end of the political spectrum do thus not
distinguish much between tax increases and spending cuts. This helps to explain our
finding that voters, on average, prefer tax increases over cuts: only voters on the very
right see spending cuts as equally attractive as tax increases. The average voter prefers to
increase taxes or do nothing rather than cut spending. In the Appendix, we also explore
and discuss the interaction of other socio-economic characteristics with the fiscal policy
treatments (i.e. socio-economic background).
3Ideology is measured by self-placement on a left-right policy scale from 0 to 10, where
0 as left and 10 as right.
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Figure 3: Eect of tax increases (gray) and spending cuts (black) on government
vote intentions as left-right position of voters changes; y-axis shows predicted
share of voters who vote against the government conditional on voter ideology;
point predictions with 95% confidence interval.
Study 2: Conjoint Analysis
In the conjoint experiment, respondents were presented with two policy programs, one
proposed by the main centre-left, the other by the main centre-right party. The order
of the two parties was randomized. The conjoint also included a brief description of
the overall economic context: low growth/high public deficit or high growth/low public
deficit. This attribute was the same for both policy proposals presented on one screen.
Below that, we presented five policy items related to dierent spending dimensions: health
care, public pensions, education, infrastructure and unemployment. Cuts could be small
or large. The next policy dimension concerned taxation and varied between no tax in-
creases,tax increases across the board,ortax increases for the wealthy only. Lastly, the
expected impact of the consolidation package on public finances could be: small,modest
10
or significant. This last item was not randomly assigned but represents a summary of
the policy mix previously presented.4For the conjoint analysis, each respondent was
presented with five screens and thus evaluated a total of ten programs. Figure A22 in
the Appendix shows a sample of conjoint screens.
The results presented in Figure Figure 4 confirm our previous results, but provide a
more nuanced picture. First, voters in all five countries react more negatively to large
cuts.5A large rather than a small cut in one area of spending reduces the probability of
voting for a party by between about 1 and 4 percent. Multiplying that by the five areas,
total punishment can add up to a twenty per cent decline in the probability of supporting
a party. Cuts to health care and pensions are the least popular, with the exception of
Portugal. These two programs represent universal schemes of which most citizens ben-
efit at some stage of their life. Compared to the above, cuts in unemployment benefits,
infrastructure, and education (again with the exception of Portugal) are less unpopular.
Second, these results confirm that the eect of tax increases across the board is gen-
erally negative. The negative eect is marginally statistically significant for Italy and
Portugal, but not for Germany, Spain and the UK. If the party, however, proposes to
increase taxes for the wealthy only, this increases the probability of supporting the party.
4The attribute describing the ‘future improvement of public finances’ was generated
as follows: Each ‘large’ cut contributes 1 point to the overall measure of the ‘future im-
provement of public finances’; ‘tax cuts for the wealthy only’ also contributes 1 point;
and ‘tax cuts across the board’ contribute 2 points. A ‘small impact’ is attributed to
packages that score 0-2 points, a ‘modest’ impact to packages scoring 3-5 points, and a
‘significant’ impact to packages scoring 6 or 7 points. This attribute is a linear combina-
tion of the characteristics of previous policy items and is excluded from the analysis due
to collinearity.
5As our conjoint did not include ‘no cuts’ we cannot distinguish whether voters’ sup-
port for small cuts may be statistically significantly dierent than voters’ preferences for
‘no cuts’.
11
Ref: SmallRef: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for policy proposal
Germany
Ref: SmallRef: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for policy proposal
UK
Ref: SmallRef: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for policy proposal
Spain
Ref: SmallRef: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for policy proposal
Italy
Ref: SmallRef: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for policy proposal
Portugal
Figure 4: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by fiscal adjustment
type; x-axis shows eect on vote intention for party in %. Eect of party proposing
measure and its interaction with voter party support included but not shown.
12
This eect is statistically significant for all countries except Spain and increases the prob-
ability to vote for the party by 2 to 5 per cent. This implies that tax increases that include
a progressive element are received more favorably by voters.
6
Generally, the size of the eects is smaller for the conjoint than for the vignette exper-
iment. We attribute this to three reasons. First, the conjoint experiment is cognitively
more demanding, perhaps leading to less clarity in response patterns. Second, the charac-
teristics on the spending attributes in the conjoint do not include ‘no cuts’, which would
likely be the most preferred option; this may minimize the dierences in the size of the
eects. Finally, the conjoint experiment also includes party labels, likely reducing the
eects of other attributes.
While the overall patterns are similar across countries, there are some notable dier-
ences in eect sizes. This is particularly true for Italy. While in the first experiment,
which does not assign a party to the government proposing a policy, Italy nicely aligns
with Spain and the UK, most eects for the conjoint analysis are not statistically sig-
nificantly dierent from zero. A potential explanation for these unclear findings is that
our survey was fielded when Italy did not have a government and political parties were
involved in negotiating a new coalition. Italian respondents compared policy packages
proposed by Partito Democratico and Forza Italia; neither of these two parties then
became part of the new governing coalition. Respondents thus perhaps had diculties
associating the policy packages with the parties we suggested.
We also examined the impact of the political and the economic context. Figure A12
in the Appendix shows that reactions to consolidation proposals depend on political cir-
cumstances (left vs. right) to a minor extent only. This means that a sucient number
of voters considers fiscal adjustment salient enough to induce a change in vote intention
even if the otherwise preferred party proposes to implement fiscal adjustment. Partisan-
6We do not find evidence that the eects of spending are moderated by the type of
tax increase; see Figures A18 to A21.
13
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
Germany
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
UK
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
Spain
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
Italy
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
Portugal
Left-wing voter (<5) Right-wing voter (>5)
Figure 5: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by fiscal adjustment
type; x-axis shows eect on vote intention for party in %. Eect of party proposing
measure and its interaction with voter party support included but not shown.
14
ship does not fully shield political parties and prevent disapproval with fiscal adjustments
from translating into electoral losses. Also, and as Figure A13 in the Appendix shows,
voter reactions to fiscal consolidation depend little on the economic circumstances (high
growth/low deficit vs low growth/high deficit). This finding further underlines the robust-
ness of the mechanisms we propose.
In line with the first experiment, voters react somewhat dierently depending on voter
ideology, but these dierences are smaller and less consistent in Study 2. Figure 5 presents
the results for left- and right-wing voters separately. In the majority of the countries
included in our analysis, left voters punish parties more strongly than right voters for
cuts in health care and public pensions. With a couple of exceptions (i.e. right-wing
voters in the UK reacting more negatively to pension cuts than left-wing voters), the
results go in the expected direction. However, the dierences between left- and right-
wing voters never reach conventional levels of statistical significance. In all countries, the
eect of tax increases for the wealthy is statistically significant and positive for left voters.
In Germany, the UK, and Italy, conservative voters also reward parties for tax increases
for the wealthy, though to a lesser degree. The dierence between left- and right-wing
voters, however, is not statistically significant. In addition to the results shown here, we
conducted a large range of supplementary analyses and robustness checks that are all
described in the Appendix.
Conclusion
Our results show that earlier research underestimated the negative eects of austerity on
voting for parties in government. This is in line with recent studies that show that voters
in European crisis countries care about austerity, but there is little evidence so far that
this is also the case in less extreme economic situations (Talving,2017). To our knowl-
edge, our study is the first that shows that a large share of voters systematically object
to fiscal consolidation, and do so not just in extreme situations when economic meltdown
and fiscal cuts coincide. In turn, the behavior of voters is important to understand the
15
political incentives of governments. For instance, the strong opposition of left-leaning
voters to spending cuts in our analysis is consistent with findings that left governments
tend to favor more modest cutbacks than right governments (H¨ubscher, 2018).
The findings stand in stark contrast to the recommendations of the major interna-
tional financial institutions during the European debt crisis. The one-sided focus on
spending cuts as the major fiscal strategy is clearly at odds with the preferences of the
majority of voters. In line with recent calls for a more active fiscal policy, our study
implies that governments should engage much more in counter-cyclical fiscal policy than
they have in the past decades. The current pro-cyclical fiscal policies are not only eco-
nomically damaging, but also magnify the political perturbations that generally occur
during economic downturns. Deficit reduction should therefore not be a priority during
economically dicult times.
16
References
Alesina, Alberto, Dorian Carloni and Giampaolo Lecce. 2011. “The Electoral Conse-
quences of Large Fiscal Adjustments.” NBER Working Paper No. 17655.
Alesina, Alberto, Roberto Perotti and Jos´e Tavares. 1998. “The Political Economy of
Fiscal Adjustments.” Brookings Papers of Economic Activity (Spring):197–248.
Arias, Eric and David Stasavage. 2019. “How Large Are the Political Costs of Fiscal
Austerity.” Journal of Politics 81(4):1517–1522.
Barnes, Lucy and Timothy Hicks. 2018. “Making Austerity Popular: The Media and Mass
Attitudes Towards Fiscal Policy.” American Journal of Political Science 62(2):340–354.
Bechtel, Michael, Jens Hainmueller and Yotam Margalit. 2014. “Preferences for Interna-
tional Redistribution: The Divide over the Eurozone Bailouts.” American Journal of
Political Science 58(4):835–856.
Blyth, Mark. 2013. Austerity – The History of A Dangerous Idea. Oxford University
Press.
Bojar, Abel, Bj¨orn Bremer, Hanspeter Kriesi and Chendi Wang. 2018. “The Eect of
Austerity Packages on Government Popularity during the Great Recession.” Paper pre-
sented at the annual conference of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics
(SASE), June 23-25, Kyoto.
Brender, Adi and Allan Drazen. 2008. “How Do Budget Deficits and Economic Growth
Aect Reelection Prospects? Evidence from A Large Cross-Section of Countries.”
American Economic Review 98(5):2209–2220.
Fetzer, Thiemo. 2019. “Did Austerity Cause Brexit?” American Economic Review
109(11):3849–3886.
Giger, Nathalie and Moira Nelson. 2011. “The Electoral Consequences of Welfare State
Retrenchment: Blame Avoidance or Credit Claiming in the Era of Permanent Auster-
ity.” European Journal of Political Research 50(1):1–23.
17
A Online Appendix for: Evelyne H¨ubscher, Thomas
Sattler and Markus Wagner, “Voter Responses to
Fiscal Austerity”, British Journal of Political Sci-
ence.
A.1 Austerity and the ECB
Since its establishment, the ECB has regularly advocated fiscal consolidations in its main
publications (e.g., ECB,2004,2010,2014). In line with influential research (Alesina, Favero
and Giavazzi,2019), it favors spending cuts over tax increases due to their assumed long-term
benefits.E.g., in February 2014, the ECB Monthly Bulletin states that “[countries] should
ensure a growth friendly composition of consolidation [...] with minimizing distortionary
eects of taxation.” Similar statements appear in all Monthly Bulletins in 2014.
These ideas were crucial for the ECB’s crisis strategy and had a strong influence on gov-
ernments. The Irish government, for instance, wrote in 2009:“The budget focused on curbing
spending to adjust expenditure needs to the revenue base [...] [T]he government took on board
evidence from international organizations, such as the EU Commission, the OECD and the
IMF; as well as the relevant economic literature which indicates that consolidation driven
by cuts in expenditure is more successful in reducing deficits than consolidation based on tax
increases” (p.15). These recommendations coincide with a general aversion of independent
central banks towards fiscal deficits, especially when the elected government is from the left
(Bodea and Higashijima, 2017).
1
A.2 Existing Studies
Contrary to earlier research, which never explicitly examined the electoral consequences of
fiscal adjustments (e.g, Immergut,1992;Pierson,2001), a series of rather recent studies di-
rectly test the claim that these type of policies are electorally risky. This research either
examines adjustments of overall fiscal policies or social and welfare state policies. Table A1
summarizes the studies that we are aware of.
Out of these ten studies, nine find that fiscal adjustments or welfare state retrenchments
do not systematically and unconditionally harm governments, either through a decline in
electoral vote shares or a reduction in vote intentions. According to one study, some gov-
ernment parties can even benefit by claiming credit for cutting fiscal deficits. Of these nine
studies, four studies find dierent conditional eects of fiscal and social adjustment policies
on governments, depending on some other variable. Nonetheless, they all present results for
models without interaction terms testing the unconditional eect of adjustment policies on
governments. In all of these models, the respective policy variable does not have an impact
on government support or election outcomes. In one study, the eect remains unclear.1
As the following quotes illustrate, the authors of these studies conclude from their results
that fiscal adjustments and welfare state retrenchments do not or not systematically and not
strongly increase electoral risk. In the first study of this kind, Alesina, Perotti and Tavares
(1998) conclude that
“Using data drawn from a sample of nineteen countries in the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), we find no evidence of a sys-
tematic electoral penalty or fall in popularity for governments that follow re-
strained fiscal policies” (p. 198).
Alesina, Carloni and Lecce (2011) reiterate this conclusion in a more recent follow-up study
of large fiscal adjustments:
“We found no evidence that even large reductions of budget deficits are associated
always (or most of the times) with electoral losses” (p.15).
In the most recent and most encompassing study over a period of 140 years, Arias and
Stasavage (2019) confirm this view:
1It finds that governments are re-elected in 50% of the cases. But since it only looks at
fiscal consolidation episodes, it is unclear if this re-election chance is high or low relative to
governments that do not engage in fiscal adjustment.
2
“Finding political costs of fiscal austerity is harder than one might think. Using
a plausible identification strategy we have failed to find evidence that expenditure
cuts are associated with more frequent turnover of leaders. This is true even when
leaders are forced into austerity by external circumstances. For those who believe
austerity is detrimental to welfare our results pose a problem. They suggest that
on average, leaders have substantial latitude to implement austerity without being
sanctioned” (p.10).
In an analysis examining social rather than overall fiscal policy, Armingeon and Giger (2008)
come to the similar conclusion that
“There is no strong and systematic punishment for governments which cut back
welfare state entitlements. The likelihood of losing votes is the same for govern-
ments that retrench the welfare state as for those that do not. Rather, electoral
punishment is conditional on whether governments have the chance to stretch re-
trenchment over a longer period of time, and whether social policy cuts are made
an issue in the electoral campaign (p. 558).
Giger and Nelson (2011)evenfindthatgovernmentpartiescanwinfromfiscalcutbacks:
“The central argument of this article has been that the electoral consequences of
retrenchment dier according to party family and that some parties, rather than
avoiding blame, are able to claim credit for cutting social policy. In particular,
liberal and religious parties can win votes from retrenching the welfare state”
(p.19).
Giger (2010) explains these results with the low salience of fiscal policy relative to other
policy dimensions:
“In fact, this study shows that not only are the electoral costs of social policy
performance limited, but also its salience among voters is not extremely high and
in most instances a majority of people rate other issues as most salient to them”
(p.436).
In a related study, Giger and Nelson (2013) take this finding as the new common wisdom
arguing that
“the assumption that voters systematically defend the welfare state is challenged
by recent research showing that parties are on average not punished and sometimes
even rewarded for welfare state retrenchment” (p. 1083).
3
In the same study, they replicate this result showing that
“there is no evidence for a general tendency that welfare state cutbacks are unpop-
ular; the occurrence of a reform in the pension, health, or unemployment scheme
does not aect the general popularity of the government” (p.8).
Talving (2017) suggests that punishment for fiscal adjustments in a new phenomenon that
primarily concerns crisis countries:
“ The results of a multilevel analysis for 24 nations measured before, during and
after the crisis demonstrate that loosening of fiscal policy enhances the likelihood
of a vote for the incumbent, but only after the financial and economic crisis,
suggesting that economic policy voting is a post-crisis phenomenon. European
citizens react to government policy decisions more in the post-crisis” (p. 574).
Finally, Bl¨ochliger, Song and Sutherland (2012)makeadirectlinkbetweentheseconclusions
and the inclination of governments to implement fiscal adjustments after learning that they
are not electorally risky:
“More than half of the governments that had started consolidation were re-elected,
and some even strengthened consolidation eorts after then (p.2).
Overall, it is fair to conclude that those studies directly testing the link between dierent
forms of fiscal retrenchment and electoral risk predominantly conclude that these policies
lead to no or, at least, very limited political punishment.
The main exceptions are studies, some of them very recent, that examine continuous
vote intentions instead of election outcomes (Sattler, Freeman and Brandt, 2008; Sattler,
Brandt and Freeman,2010;Talving,2017;Bojar et al.,2018). When such higher frequency
responses of voters to policies are examined, a consistent, unconditional eect of fiscal cuts
on government popularity can be observed.
4
Table A1: Summary of studies
Study Dependent Independent Intervening Eect Data
Alesina, Perotti
and Tavares (1998)Government change Change in primary
fiscal deficit N.A. None
Macro; 19 OECD
countries (annual);
1960-1995
Alesina, Carloni
and Lecce (2011)Government change
Change in cyclically
adjusted primary
deficit
N.A. None
Macro; 19 OECD
countries (annual);
1975-2008
Arias and
Stasavage (2019)Leader turnover
Change in
government
expenditures
N.A. None Macro; 32 countries
(annual); 1870-2011
Armingeon and
Giger (2008)
Change in vote
share of government
party
Change in welfare
entitlements / social
expenditures
Campaign over
welfare state
None / (if
campaign)
Macro; elections in
18 OECD countries;
1980-2003
Bl¨ochliger, Song
and Sutherland
(2012)
Re-election Fiscal consolidation
episode N.A. Unclear
Macro; 13 episodes
in 11 OECD
countries; 1980-2000
Giger (2010)Vote for government
party
Social policy
attitude
Government
performance
None / (if
poor
performance)
Micro; 20 elections
in OECD countries;
2001-2006
Giger and Nelson
(2011)
Change in vote
share of government
parties
Change in welfare
entitlements Party type
None / + (if
religious or
liberal party)
Macro; elections in
18 OECD countries;
1970-2002
5
Giger and Nelson
(2013)
Vote for government
party Welfare state beliefs N.A.
None / (if
‘unconditional
believer’)
Micro; 13 OECD
countries; 2008
Schumacher, Vis
and van
Kersbergen (2013)
Change in vote
share of government
parties
Change in welfare
entitlements
Party welfare
state images
None / (if
positive welfare
image)
Macro; 269 elections
in 14 OECD
countries; 1970 -
2002
Talving (2017)PM party vote
intention
Change in cyclically
adjusted fiscal
balance
Pre- / post-
crisis period
None / (if
post-crisis)
Micro; 24 OECD
countries; 2004,
2009, 2014
Note: ‘Eect’ refers to impact of independent variable on dependent variable; in studies with intervening variables, the eect
listed first refers to the unconditional eect of the independent variable in models without interaction; the eect listed second
refers to the conditional eect of the independent variable depending on the value of the intervening variable.
6
A.3 Theoretical Perspectives on Voter Attitudes
Why Voters Disapprove of Austerity Programs
The pro-austerian view is grounded in the assumption that voters understand the benefits of
low deficits and, therefore, fiscal consolidation. After all, deficits are critically observed by
economic investors and lead to higher interest on government debt (Mosley,2000; Hallerberg
and Wol,2008; Sattler, 2013; Ferrara and Sattler, 2018). Nonetheless, there are multiple
reasons why voters, contrary to the pro-austerian view, disapprove of austerity programs.
These reasons raise doubts about the assumption that the costs are small, which means that
the trade-obetween fiscal austerity and deficits is much sharper than the pro-austerian
view claims. First, and in line with the previous research on welfare state retrenchment
(e.g., Immergut,1992;Pierson,2001; Vis, 2010), consolidations have strong distributional
consequences and therefore impose significant costs on many voters. Second, the aggregate
welfare costs of consolidations generally are much larger than the proponents of austerity in
the economic literature assumes. We discuss each argument in turn.
A crucial feature of fiscal consolidations is that they aect a large share of voters. En-
compassing fiscal adjustments do not just aect selected societal groups, but broad segments
of society (e.g., Alesina, Perotti and Tavares, 1998, p. 224). If we follow the common as-
sumption that the median voter is a net receiver of public transfers (Meltzer and Richard,
1981), then spending cuts should alienate a majority of citizens. Large fiscal adjustments
not only target social policy programs (Armingeon, Guthmann and Weisstanner, 2016), but
also aect the provision of broad public services, such as infrastructure, health care and
education (ubscher, 2017,2018). A similar logic applies to tax increases. An increase in
income taxation reduces the disposable income of the median voter and everybody who is
better othan her. If tax measures also include a decrease of the minimum taxable income
threshold, then those who are worse othan the median voter are also negatively aected.
Voters also have good reasons to object against fiscal adjustments because austerity can
seriously harm economic growth (Chowdhury and Islam,2012; Guajardo, Leigh and Pesca-
tori,2014). According to recent estimates, a consolidation of 1% of GDP reduces real GDP
by 1.8% to 3.5% over a 5-year period (Jord`a and Taylor, 2016). In addition, austerity in-
creases inequality, especially through its eect on wages and unemployment (Ball et al.,2013;
Woo et al., 2013). Voters who evaluate governments based on aggregate economic outcomes,
thus, should punish governments who implement fiscal consolidation. Even if consolidations
have positive long-term eects as the ECB claims, it is unlikely that an average voter is able
7
to project the impact of fiscal policy on growth beyond a 5-year window. Macroeconomic
forecasts over such a long time period are subject to large uncertainty, and voters strongly
discount delayed, uncertain benefits of policy interventions (Jacobs and Matthews, 2012).
Overall, this means that voters, on average, should punish governments for fiscal aus-
terity. More precisely, voters are more likely to vote against governments that implement
austerity policies compared to governments that avoid such policies in similar situations.
This hypothesis is in line with findings that governments in fact associate substantial risk
with fiscal austerity (Hallerberg, 2004; H¨ubscher, 2016; H¨ubscher and Sattler, 2017)andwith
the eect of austerity on public protest dynamics during the Euro crisis (Magalhaes,2014;
Genovese, Schneider and Wassmann,2016; Hutter, Kriesi and Vidal, 2018; Bremer, Hutter
and Kriesi,2020).
Voter Heterogeneity
Although we expect that voters, on average, respond negatively to fiscal adjustment, voters
still diverge in their cost-benefit analysis of austerity for ideological and personal material rea-
sons.2Political ideology provides voters with guidance about the potential economic and so-
cial eects of fiscal adjustment.3In more self-interested terms, voters’ socio-economic status
may determine how fiscal adjustment aects their disposable incomes. In both perspectives,
the distinction between spending-led and tax-led fiscal adjustment is crucial (Grittersov´a
et al.,2016). This distinction is critical in ideological debates in the economics literature
about whether and how fiscal deficits should be reduced (see Appendix Section A.1). It is
also critical for the material eects that fiscal adjustment has on voters.
Given the overall complexity of economic processes, it is dicult for voters to properly
evaluate the economic value of fiscal adjustment policies. Voters, therefore, rely on causal
beliefs about the underlying economic relationships and the role of fiscal policy for economic
performance (Bansak et al., Forthcoming). Left voters tend to see the economy more through
a Keynesian framework that advocates an active role of the state through counter-cyclical
2Attitudes towards austerity can also vary across countries depending on the economic
circumstances of the particular country (Copelovitch, Frieden and Walter,2016; Walter,
2015).
3The literature however, is divided over whether broader political ideology drives pol-
icy preferences or whether policy preferences instead drive individual’s political ideology
(Margalit,2013, p.81).
8
fiscal policies. Left-wing voters, therefore, should be ideologically more opposed to fiscal
austerity than right-wing voters (Margalit,2013; Owens and Pedulla, 2014). If they do sup-
port fiscal adjustments, left voters should prefer strategies that preserve state power, e.g. by
increasing taxes, over those strategies that shrink the government, e.g. by cutting spending.
In contrast, right-wing voters are more likely to subscribe to a paradigm that promotes min-
imal state intervention. They, therefore, should be more supportive of austerity measures
and prefer fiscal strategies that limit government size over those that preserve the role of
government.4
Besides their political views, voters dier in how much they are personally aected by
fiscal adjustments (Larsen,2017; Soss and Schram, 2007). Citizens’ socio-economic status,
e.g. their income, professional and educational background, influence how much they benefit
from public and social spending and, hence, their fiscal policy preferences (Rehm, Hacker and
Schlesinger, 2012). Spending cuts most strongly aect low-income citizens, people exposed
to labor market risk, pensioners and public employees (Rueda,2005; Aklin and Counselman,
2017). These citizens should be more likely to oppose spending cuts. In contrast, higher-
income citizens and those facing less labor market risk are less likely to require social transfer
payments in the future. In contrast, this latter group is more aected by tax increases than
the former group. Attitudes towards tax increases, therefore, should be the reverse.
4The question whether policy preferences drive political ideology or political ideology
determines someone’s policy preferences remains unanswered. The causal arrow proposed
here could therefore also be reversed.
9
A.4 Cases
Two of the countries, Portugal and Spain, recently experienced a debt crisis and received
significant bail-out packages from the international community. While Portugal has been
enjoying an economic boom since 2016 and has managed to significantly reduce its public
deficit, Spain continues to struggle with relatively high public deficits. Portugal has recov-
ered much more from the crisis, and unemployment dropped to 7% in Portugal as opposed
to 16 % in Spain until the time of our survey in Spring 2018. Unlike Spain and Portugal,
Italy never had to ask for financial help to keep serving its public debt or to bail out its
banking sector. However, Italy experienced a triple dip recession, and some Italian banks
had to be rescued by the state (e.g. Monte dei Paschi di Siena). More importantly, the
country’s economy is struggling with competitiveness issues and very high levels of public
debt (>130% of GDP), which limits the government’s room to manoeuver.
In the UK, the government had to bail out a number of banks after the financial crisis,
which resulted in a steep increase of the country’s public debt (from 41% of the GDP in
2007 to almost 88% in 2015). Consequentially, in 2009 the UK finance minister announced
the largest deficit in history (£175 billion). To address this situation, the UK government
implemented a series of fiscal adjustment measures during the past decade. The German
current experience, however, is dierent from that of most other countries. The country saw
an increase in public debt from 63% in 2007 to 81% in 2010, but the German fiscal balance
has now been in surplus for a number of years and the size of public debt declined to pre-
crisis levels. Nevertheless, with Germany being a key actor in the way the EU addressed the
economic crisis, the German public was very susceptible to issues related to public finances
and debt. Moreover, large public deficits, fiscal consolidations and economic reforms ranked
high on the political agenda in Germany for many years between the 1990s and 2000s (Manger
and Sattler,2020). The current German context, therefore, is dierent from crisis countries,
but German voters have experienced consolidations and reforms in the past and should be
aware of their eects.
Table A2: Summary of Key Country Characteristics
Country Fiscal pressure Eurozone Bail-out
Spain high yes yes
Portugal high yes yes
Italy high yes no
UK high no no
Germany low yes no
10
A.5 Experiment Design – Details
The surveys were implemented by respondi. Respondents were selected from country-specific
online access panels; quotas based on age and gender were implemented. The sample was
restricted to voting-age nationals under 70. In each country, we surveyed around 2,200
individuals. The next section, A.6; provides more details about the country-specific panels
and other aspects of the data collection process.
A.5.1 The Vignette Experiment
Imagine the following scenario taking place two years in the future, in 2020. The [UK / Italy
/ Spain / Germany / Portugal] has experienced a sizeable deficit in the public budget for
several years. This has led to a significant increase in the level of [the country’s] debt, making it
economically more costly to provide government programmes such as public pensions, schools and
healthcare. [The country’s] prime minister then announces in a televised speech how to deal with
this situation.
Vignette 1: The prime minister says that the government will take measures to reduce the fiscal
deficit. The main features of this package are:
no change in spending on public and social services, such as state pensions,
unemployment benefits, public infrastructure, and public health care;
astrong increase in income taxation.
Vignette 2: The prime minister says that the government will take measures to reduce the fiscal
deficit. The main features of this package are:
astrong decrease in spending on public and social services, such as state pensions
unemployment benefits, public infrastructure, and public health care;
no change in income taxation.
Vignette 3: The prime minister says that the government will not alter its current policy despite
the high fiscal deficit. Specifically, the government will undertake
no change in spending on public and social services, such as state pensions,
unemployment benefits, public infrastructure, and public health care;
no change in income taxation.
11
A.5.2 The Conjoint Experiment
Table A3: Example of conjoint analysis task (UK)
Package A Package B
Party Labour Party Conservative Party
Overall situation
Economic Growth [High / Low] [High / Low]
Budget Deficit [Low / High] [Low / High]
Spending Cuts
of which to ...
Education [Small / Large] [Small / Large]
Public Transport / Infrastructure [Small / Large] [Small / Large]
Unemployment Benefits [Small / Large] [Small / Large]
Health Care [Small / Large] [Small / Large]
Pensions [Small / Large] [Small / Large]
Tax Increases [None / [None /
Across the board / Across the board /
For the wealthy] For the wealthy]
Future improvement of public
finances
[Small / Modest /
Large]
[Small / Modest /
Large]
12
A.6 Online Survey: Fielding phase and weights
Respondi, a German-based polling firm administered the fielding of the survey for us. The
surveys took place between March 12 and March 20, 2018. In addition to their own online
panels, they tapped into the standing panels from netquest for Spain and Portugal. Respon-
dents from Germany and the UK come from respondi’s own standing panel. The pool of
Italian respondents are predominantly part of the Lightspeed panel and respondi’s own pool
of respondents. The respondi panel in Germany consists of 100.000 people; the panel in the
UK consists of 45.000 people; the panel size in Spain is 153.000 people, plus respondi’s own
panel of 15.000 people; the panel in Portugal consists of 8.000 people. The country samples
are designed to be representative of the country’s population in terms of age (up to 70) and
gender.
Survey descriptives and weighting strategy
Table A4 presents descriptive statistics from the five surveys as well as descriptive statistics
from the Wave 7 ESS surveys in each country (apart from Italy, where Wave 6 data is used).
Non-citizens were excluded and ESS weights used to generate the ESS descriptives. The
party choice data is from the most recent parliamentary election in each country.
The survey data is generally representative of each country in terms of gender. The mean
age is lower, which is to be expected in surveys based on online panels. The education level is
higher, again a regular feature of online surveys. Recalled vote choice overestimates turnout
and shows some dierences in terms of the distribution of the vote. This table clearly justifies
weighting the data in order to arrive at better estimates of treatment eects for the overall
population.
We constructed weights using the Stata ado ipfweight, which used iterative proportional
fitting (also known as raking) to adjust survey descriptives to match known population
margins (Bergmann,2011). The tolerance level is 0.05, the maximum weight was set to 4.
We weighted the survey data so that it matches ESS distributions in terms of: gender x age
groups (female/male x 18-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-70); sex x region (country-specific); age
x region; age x education (18-49, 50-70 x EISCED 1-3b, 4, 5-6); gender x education; and
party choice. By weighting for, e.g. gender x age group, we automatically also weight for
gender and age separately.
As we show below, our results do not dier substantively if these weights are not used.
13
Table A4: Survey descriptives compared to ESS data
Germany UK Spain
Variable Levels Survey ESS data Survey ESS data Survey ESS data
Gender Male 49.49 48.9 Male 48.21 48.68 Male 49.81 48.64
Female 50.51 51.1 Female 51.79 51.32 Female 50.19 51.35
Age Mean 44.62 49.43 Mean 43.26 47.89 Mean 43.98 48.48
Education (ISCED) 1-3b 50.25 68.19 1-3b 49.38 57.96 1-3b 38.53 66.67
4 21.65 16.81 4 16.32 16.81 4 16.27 9.36
5-6 28.1 15 5-6 34.3 25.23 5-6 45.21 23.98
Party choice CDU/CSU 17.73 25.15 Con 32.11 29.93 PP 15.87 21.95
SPD 19 15.62 Lab 32.86 28.26 PSOE 13.15 15.04
FDP 9.86 8.15 Lib Dem 5.78 5.21 Cs 13.57 8.68
Green 9.69 6.78 Other 9.9 5.5 UP 21.62 14.05
Left 12.1 7.01 Did not vote 19.34 31.1 Other 16.64 6.75
AfD 12.99 9.6 Did not vote 19.15 33.52
Other 5.25 3.88
Did not vote 13.37 23.8
Italy Portugal
Variable Survey ESS data Survey ESS data
Gender Male 48.54 47.6 Male 47.18 46.97
Female 51.46 52.4 Female 52.82 53.02
Age Mean 45.14 49.17 Mean 44.4 49.47
Education (ISCED) 1-3b 61.27 85.85 1-3b 48.3 81.48
4 5.06 2.56 4 7.47 3.37
5-6 33.66 11.59 5-6 44.23 15.16
Party choice M5S 30.6 23.82 PSD/CDS-PP 23.63 20.58
PD 16.16 13.65 PS 16.63 18.04
Lega 12.59 12.67 BE 8.96 5.69
FI 7.56 10.22 CDU 1.74 4.61
FdI 4.17 3.17 Other 17.45 6.91
LiU 4.21 2.47 Did not vote 31.59 44.16
Other 8.42 9.4
Did not vote 16.29 27.07
14
Un-weighted vs. weighted coecients
The following graph shows the weighted (using population weights) and unweighted coef-
ficients for the baseline model indicating the vote intention of respondents, given a gov-
ernments proposal to cut spending or implement tax increases, respectively. There are no
statistically significant dierences between the weighted and unweighted estimates. Based
on this, all models presented show the unweighted coecients.





     
 


Figure A1: Weighted (light grey marker) and unweighted (dark grey marker)
coecients including confidence intervals for respondent’s vote
intention given the government’s proposal to implement tax in-
creases or spending cuts
15
A.7 Study 1: Additional Analyses
Table A5 presents the detailed regression results for Study 1. Table A6 then presents results
including interactions with prior government support, left-right position, and income. In
order to operationalize educational achievement we rely on country-specific questions as
used in the European Social Survey. The country-specific information is then harmonized
using the coding scheme proposed by the European Social Survey. Income is measured as a
‘households’ total net income per month’ informed by the increments used by the European
Social Survey. Finally, we dierentiate between four dierent employment sectors (public,
private, non-profit, and self-employed).
16
Table A5: Regression results
Portugal UK Germany Italy Spain
b/se b/se b/se b/se b/se
Tax increases 0.009 0.023 0.097⇤⇤ 0.108⇤⇤⇤ 0.123⇤⇤⇤
(0.036) (0.028) (0.034) (0.029) (0.032)
Spending cuts 0.064 0.188⇤⇤⇤ 0.198⇤⇤⇤ 0.186⇤⇤⇤ 0.260⇤⇤⇤
(0.034) (0.026) (0.032) (0.028) (0.030)
Gov supporter -0.211⇤⇤⇤ -0.246⇤⇤⇤ -0.198⇤⇤⇤ -0.132⇤⇤⇤ -0.161⇤⇤⇤
(0.035) (0.028) (0.028) (0.036) (0.040)
Age -0.001 -0.000 -0.000 0.000 0.001
(0.001) (0.001) (0.001) (0.001) (0.001)
Female 0.057 0.022 0.021 0.0590.025
(0.029) (0.022) (0.026) (0.024) (0.025)
EISCED 2 0.007 0.027 0.054 0.090 -0.001
(0.063) (0.110) (0.206) (0.167) (0.056)
EISCED 3 0.009 -0.002 0.041 0.154 -0.014
(0.057) (0.109) (0.201) (0.166) (0.056)
EISCED 4 0.072 0.041 0.176
(0.065) (0.106) (0.165)
EISCED 5 0.023 0.010 0.048 0.127 0.002
(0.076) (0.108) (0.202) (0.172) (0.057)
EISCED 6 0.029 0.054 -0.099 0.095 -0.004
(0.061) (0.107) (0.203) (0.168) (0.057)
EISCED 7 0.013 0.027 -0.145 0.134 -0.006
(0.059) (0.110) (0.203) (0.166) (0.056)
Left-Right 0.007 -0.020⇤⇤⇤ -0.000 0.000 -0.014
(0.007) (0.006) (0.006) (0.005) (0.006)
Income 0.008 -0.013⇤⇤ 0.003 -0.004 -0.012⇤⇤
(0.006) (0.004) (0.005) (0.005) (0.004)
Constant 0.627⇤⇤⇤ 0.703⇤⇤⇤ 0.662⇤⇤ 0.446⇤⇤ 0.634⇤⇤⇤
(0.092) (0.117) (0.209) (0.172) (0.081)
R-squared 0.047 0.121 0.097 0.048 0.103
N 2055.000 2084.000 1553.000 2123.000 2158.000
Standard errors in parentheses. Baseline categories: Types of consolidation:
do nothing; Level of Education: low; income is treated as continuous.
17
Table A6: Regression results
Portugal UK Germany Italy Spain
b/se b/se b/se b/se b/se
Tax increases 0.154 -0.094 0.053 0.049 0.137
(0.096) (0.078) (0.088) (0.073) (0.063)
Spending cuts 0.326⇤⇤⇤ 0.357⇤⇤⇤ 0.259⇤⇤ 0.386⇤⇤⇤ 0.413⇤⇤⇤
(0.095) (0.067) (0.087) (0.064) (0.057)
Left-Right 0.037⇤⇤ -0.016 -0.003 0.006 -0.002
(0.012) (0.010) (0.012) (0.009) (0.011)
Tax incr x LR -0.032 0.028 0.016 0.015 -0.002
(0.017) (0.016) (0.016) (0.012) (0.015)
Cuts x LR -0.056⇤⇤ -0.034-0.010 -0.035⇤⇤ -0.037
(0.017) (0.014) (0.016) (0.011) (0.015)
Income 0.001 -0.027⇤⇤⇤ 0.006 -0.006 -0.012
(0.010) (0.007) (0.009) (0.009) (0.009)
Tax incr x income 0.016 0.025-0.000 -0.005 -0.010
(0.014) (0.010) (0.012) (0.012) (0.011)
Cuts x income 0.004 0.015 -0.007 0.014 0.012
(0.013) (0.009) (0.012) (0.012) (0.010)
Gov supporter -0.236⇤⇤⇤ -0.241⇤⇤⇤ -0.161⇤⇤ -0.045 -0.157
(0.061) (0.049) (0.053) (0.062) (0.071)
Tax incr x Gov. supp. 0.063 -0.057 -0.084 -0.155 -0.046
(0.086) (0.068) (0.072) (0.089) (0.102)
Cuts x Gov. supp. 0.018 0.030 -0.031 -0.103 0.054
(0.082) (0.065) (0.070) (0.083) (0.095)
Age -0.001 -0.000 -0.000 -0.000 0.001
(0.001) (0.001) (0.001) (0.001) (0.001)
Fem a l e 0 . 0 5 7 0.022 0.022 0.0560.025
(0.029) (0.022) (0.026) (0.024) (0.025)
EISCED 2 0.002 0.026 0.054 0.074 -0.001
(0.063) (0.108) (0.214) (0.172) (0.055)
EISCED 3 0.003 -0.006 0.040 0.137 -0.010
(0.057) (0.107) (0.209) (0.171) (0.054)
EISCED 4 0.074 0.041 0.156
(0.065) (0.105) (0.170)
EISCED 5 0.021 0.006 0.049 0.123 0.007
(0.077) (0.106) (0.210) (0.176) (0.056)
EISCED 6 0.024 0.052 -0.100 0.077 0.002
(0.061) (0.106) (0.211) (0.173) (0.056)
EISCED 7 0.004 0.018 -0.144 0.113 -0.005
(0.060) (0.108) (0.211) (0.171) (0.055)
Constant 0.494⇤⇤⇤ 0.682⇤⇤⇤ 0.656⇤⇤ 0.4250.584⇤⇤⇤
(0.107) (0.123) (0.220) (0.182) (0.090)
R-squared 0.059 0.133 0.101 0.068 0.113
N2055.0002084.0001553.0002123.0002158.000
Standard errors in parentheses. Baseline categories: Types of consoli-
dation: do nothing; Level of Education: low; income is treated as con-
tinuous.
18


 



 



 



 



 





Figure A2: Voter approval of fiscal policy decisions, by fiscal adjustment type; y-axis shows average approval
rate for the dierent fiscal policy propositions; approval ranges from 1 (‘strongly disapprove’) to
5 (‘strongly approve’).
19




     








     








     








     








     





Figure A3: Eect of tax increases (gray) and spending cuts (black) on government vote
intentions as left-right position of voters changes; eect shows how voting
changes relative to ‘no action’ as voters become more right-wing; point pre-
dictions with 95% confidence interval
20
A.8 Study 2: Additional Analyses and Conjoint Screenshots
In what follows we present a series of additional results and robustness checks for study 2.
In particular:
we present results from a model where all five surveys are pooled (Figure A4, Figure A5
and Figure A6);
we replicate model 4 and 5 in the paper excluding ‘implausible’ policy packages (Fig-
ure A7 and Figure A8);
we present the approval for policy proposals (cuts in spending and tax increases) con-
ditional on voters’ left-right self-placement (Figure A9 and Figure A10);
we examine the impact on vote intention across dierent economic contexts (good vs.
bad) (Figure A11);
we examine the impact on vote intention dierent policy proposals have across dierent
party platforms (Figure A12);
we split the sample to assess whether voters react dierently to proposals from ‘their’
ideologically preferred party (Figure A13 and Figure A14);
we further assess the impact of individual level heterogeneity on people’s vote intention.
Specifically:
level of income (Figure A15)
educational background (Figure A16)
employment sector (Figure A17)
and we analyse whether the impact of spending cuts depends on the level of tax in-
creases (Figure A18, Figure A19, Figure A20 and Figure A21).
All figures apart Figure A5 and Figure A6 represent weighted estimates and include the
following individual level controls: age, gender, and educational attainment. We excluded
these controls from Figure A5 and Figure A6 because the margins command could not
compute predicted interaction eects in Stata in these more complicated models.
Pooled model
These first Figures present results from pooled models without (Figure A4)andwithinter-
actions with indicators for each country (Figure A5, Figure A6). These results are consistent
with the results presented in the main text.
21










  

Figure A4: Pooled Model: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals;
x-axis shows eect on vote intention for party in %.
22






    





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
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    



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
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
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    

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





  








  



Figure A5: Pooled Model: Vote intentions based on proposals for spending cuts by country; x-axis shows eect on vote intention for
party in %.
23






    




Figure A6: Pooled Model: Vote intentions based on tax increase proposals,
by country; x-axis shows eect on vote intention for party in %.
‘Implausible’ Policy Combinations
Due to the fact that all policy attributes (dierent types of spending cuts and tax increases)
included in our conjoint are randomly assigned to the respective party platform, there is the
possibility that respondents have to evaluate ‘implausible’ policy mixes. Such ‘implausible’
policy mixes can occur for both policy platform. The most obvious, implausible scenarios
that can occur within our conjoint are the following:
Scenario a) a conservative party suggesting consolidation only through tax increases across
the board without adding any cuts in spending, or
Scenario b) a leftist party suggesting consolidation through spending cuts only without any
tax increase.
The table below shows how often these ‘extreme’ scenarios occur in our data:
24
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for proposed policy proposal
Germany
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for proposed policy proposal
UK
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for proposed policy proposal
Spain
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for proposed policy proposal
Italy
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Spending cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote intention for proposed policy proposal
Portugal
Replication of figure 4 in paper (excluding implausible scenarios)
Figure A7: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by dierent types
of fiscal adjustment, excluding ‘implausible’ policy combinations;
x-axis shows eect on vote intention for party in %.
Total n o obs erva tio ns* Sc ena rio a Sc ena rio b
Portugal 24240 107 121
Italy 23630 109 132
Spain 23600 109 91
Germany 23730 108 109
UK 24230 99 108
In order to test whether the inclusion of these ‘implausible’ scenarios aect our results,
we excluded them from the models underlying figure 4 and 5 in the paper and reproduce
the graphs that are included in the main paper. As the following figures (A6 and A7) show,
excluding these scenarios does not change our results.
Naturally, there are various degrees of ‘implausibility’ and – based on this – a number of
other scenarios could be excluded from the analysis. However, there is a lot of variation in
the way fiscal consolidation packages are designed, with the majority of packages including
both tax- and spending-based consolidation measures. It is therefore dicult to define ‘clear
25
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
Left-wing voter (<5) Right-wing voter (>5)
Germany
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
Left-wing voter (<5) Right-wing voter (>5)
UK
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
Left-wing voter (<5) Right-wing voter (>5)
Spain
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
Left-wing voter (<5) Right-wing voter (>5)
Italy
Ref: Small
Ref: None
Large cuts
Tax increase
Public health care
Public pensions
Education
Unemployment benefits
Public infrastructure
Across the board
For wealthy only
-.1 -.05 0 .05 .1
Impact on vote for party
Left-wing voter (<5) Right-wing voter (>5)
Portugal
Replication of figure 5 in paper (excluding implausible scenarios)
Figure A8: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by dierent types
of fiscal adjustment, excluding ‘implausible’ policy combinations;
x-axis shows eect on vote intention for party in %.
26
cut’ leftist or ‘clear cut’ conservative approaches to consolidation which could help us to
identify a further set of non-controversial ‘implausible’ policy packages.
In order to further support the above point, the following table lists consolidation events
that are exclusively tax- or spending based and the type of party government that imple-
mented the package. This table is based on information from the data on fiscal consolidation
events collected by Devries et al. (2011).
Table A7: Exclusively Tax- or Spending-Based Consolidations
Purely Spending Based Reforms Purely Tax Based Reforms
Country Year Coalition Country Year Coalition
Netherlands 1982 Christian Democrats & Demo-
cratic Party (D66)
USA 1978 Democrats
Netherlands 1984 Christian Democrats & Peo-
ple’s Party
USA 1980 Democrats
Netherlands 1985 Christian Democrats & Peo-
ple’s Party
USA 1981 Republicans
Netherlands 1986 Christian Democrats & Peo-
ple’s Party
USA 1985 Republicans
USA 1986 Republicans
Finland 1992 Centre Party & Christian
Democrats & Swedish People’s
Party & National Coalition
Party
France 1979 Gaullists
Finland 1993 Centre Party & Christian
Democrats & Swedish People’s
Party & National Coalition
Party
France 1988 Socialist Party
Finland 1996 Social Democrats & Left Al-
liance & Green Party
France 1999 Socialist Coalition
France 2000 Socialist Coalition
Conditional eects
This section presents results for Study 2 conditional on voters’ left-right position, economic
context and socio-demographic attributes. We also present results for the interaction between
tax increases and spending cuts.
27








          










          










          










          










          


Figure A9: Approval for policy proposal (cuts in spending) conditional on voter
left-right position; x-axis shows predicted approval of the proposal
on a 1-5 scale.
In this graph we present the cumulative eect when all five spending items are taken together. This variable can take a
value between 0 and 5, where 0 means that the policy proposal did not include any cuts and 5 implies that the policy proposal
included cuts in all five spending areas.
28















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
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







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






































Figure A10: Approval for policy proposal (tax increase) conditional on voter left-right position; x-axis
shows predicted approval of the proposal on a 1-5 scale.
29











   












   












   












   












   



 
Figure A11: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by fiscal adjustment type; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
30




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





   












   












   












   












   



 
Figure A12: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by fiscal adjustment type; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
31











   












   












   












   












   



 
Figure A13: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by fiscal adjustment type; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
32











   












   












   












   












   



 
Figure A14: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by fiscal adjustment type; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
33











   












   












   












   












   



 
Figure A15: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by fiscal adjustment type; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
34











    












    












    












    












    



  
Figure A16: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by fiscal adjustment type; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
35











     












     












     












     












     



   
Figure A17: Vote intentions based on fiscal policy proposals, by fiscal adjustment type; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
36




   






  






  






  






    



Figure A18: Vote intentions based on large spending cuts, by type of tax increase; x-axis shows eect on vote intention
for party in %.
37




  






    






   






    






   



Figure A19: Vote intentions based on large spending cuts, by type of tax increase; x-axis shows eect on vote intention
for party in %.
38




    






    






  






    






   



Figure A20: Vote intentions based on large spending cuts, by type of tax increase; x-axis shows eect on vote intention
for party in %.
39




   






    






   






   






   



Figure A21: Vote intentions based on large spending cuts, by type of tax increase; x-axis shows eect on vote intention
for party in %.
40
Figure A22: Conjoint Screenshots
The introductory screen read: Finally, we will now show you a series of dierent economic policy propositions – one proposed
by the Labour Party and the other proposed by the Conservative Party. These policy propositions are more complex than the
ones in the previous examples because they vary in dierent aspects. For instance, the parties can propose to cut spending
in dierent policy areas or to increase taxes for dierent citizens. The scenarios also vary in terms of how well the economic
is doing and how large the deficit in the public budget is. Please indicate your approval or disapproval of these packages and
which party you would vote for. Attention: You can only proceed to the next screen after 5 seconds.
41
A.9 Conjoint Diagnostics
In this section, we report the key results of a series of conjoint diagnostic tests we carried
out as recommended by Hainmueller et al. (2013).
No Carry Over Eects
This test assesses the assumption that respondents prioritize the same policy packages as
long as these packages include the same policies, regardless of which policy packages they
had seen before or would see later. This essentially means that the current choice is not
aected by the last choice task and will have no eect on the future choice task. For testing
the assumption that no carry over eects between choice tasks exist, we interact each policy
attribute (economic growth, budget deficit; spending cuts in: education, infrastructure,
unemployment benefits, health care, pension; tax increase, and future impact) with the
dierent choice task variable. We then use an F-test for the joint significance of these
interactions. We find that the F-test fails to reject the null hypothesis of no interaction
between the choice task indicators and the specific policy attributes of the retrenchment
packages for most countries and most attributes. However, for the German and Spanish
data, there were significant interaction terms between the tax increase variable and the
choice task variable, and in the UK for the future impact and choice task. When further
investigating these interaction terms, there are no consistent patters for the Spain case. The
UK case for the impact and choice task interaction also showed no patterns in the coecients
when the impact variable was interacted with each task variable (resulting in 5 models for
the 5 choice tasks).
Profile Order Eects
The average marginal components eects (AMCE) that we report are based on the assump-
tion that respondents make no dierence between the packages whether they are presented
in the first, second or the third (etc.) place. This means that shuing, in which order
the dierent packages are shown to the respondents does not have an eect on the choices
respondents make. The profile order tests were carried out in a similar manner as the carry
over tests, where we interacted our IVs with the variable indicating the order of the party
profiles. The assumption is that this order should not have any eect on the coecient of
the policy variables. With the exception of the UK, the F-tests show no statistically signif-
icant (for p<0.05) eects for the interactions in the five countries and IVs. For the UK,
the coecient on unemployment benefits is statistically significant (p= 0.026) if the package
presented first comes from the conservative party.
42
Randomization of the Profiles
A randomized conjoint analysis should, by design, yield unbalanced groups over a number
of respondent characteristics. We thus check whether consolidation package attributes are
balanced across observable respondent characteristics such as age, income, and political
views. Due to the fact that we are working with categorical data we cross-tabulated the
respondent’s observable characteristics with the policy options. The test was a 2statistic
to check whether respondent attributes and policy options are independent. By and large, the
tests showed no significance at the p<0.05 level, with the exception of the growth/budget
deficit-attribute (they are the inverse of each other) and gender for Germany. For the UK
and Italy, the growth/budget deficit variable is related to the age of the respondents, whereas
in Italy to income. However, after examining the cross-tabulations for these variables, the
dierences in the row proportions are 3-5 percentage points, which still indicates a good
balance in our experimental groups.
Cross-contamination of experiments
We ran Study 2 in the same survey as Study 1. In order to check whether Study 2 was
‘contaminated’ by the treatment group respondents were assigned to in Study 1, we interact
Study 1 treatment groups with Study 2 treatments. As the following Figures show, no
systematic eects were found.
43




    






    






   






   






  



Figure A19: Vote intentions based on large spending cuts, by Study 1 treatment group; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
44




   






   






    






    






    



Figure A20: Vote intentions based on large spending cuts, by Study 1 treatment group; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
45




    






    






    






   






   



Figure A21: Vote intentions based on large spending cuts, by Study 1 treatment group; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
46




  
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
   
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


   






    






    



Figure A22: Vote intentions based on large spending cuts, by Study 1 treatment group; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
47




   


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

   






   






    






   



Figure A23: Vote intentions based on large spending cuts, by Study 1 treatment group; x-axis shows eect on vote
intention for party in %.
48
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18
... Estos temas, que fueron ampliamente investigados en décadas anteriores (por ejemplo, Stevenson, 2001;Erickson et al., 2002), volvieron a suscitar gran interés entre los científicos sociales a partir de la depresión de 2008. La literatura académica se centró en estudiar qué efectos tuvo esta crisis en las actitudes hacia el estado de bienestar (Diamond y Lodge, 2013;Margalit, 2013;Ervasti et al., 2013;Anderson y Hecht, 2014;Laenen y Van Oorschot, 2020;Curtice, 2020), hacia las políticas sociales y redistributivas (Soroka y Wlezien, 2010;Brunner et al., 2011;Fisman et al., 2015;Calzada y Del Pino, 2016;Rehm, 2016;Rueda y Stegmueller, 2019), y hacia los programas de austeridad (Calzada y Del Pino, 2018;Alesina et al., 2019;Häusermann et al., 2020;Busemeyer, 2021;Hübscher et al., 2021). La debacle económica de la pandemia vuelve a situar en primer plano estas cuestiones (Breznau, 2021;Miyar-Busto y Mato-Díaz, 2021;Asano et al., 2021), con el estímulo de que, ahora, es factible examinar la reacción de la opinión pública ante dos vías diferentes de acción política pues, mientras Cicuéndez Santamaría, Ruth El apoyo social a las políticas públicas en épocas de crisis: preferencias de gasto público durante la pandemia y la Gran Recesión