Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-xm8r8 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-22T14:10:49.142Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Voter Responses to Fiscal Austerity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2020

Evelyne Hübscher*
Central European University, Vienna, Austria University of Geneva, Switzerland
Thomas Sattler
University of Geneva, Switzerland
Markus Wagner
University of Vienna, Austria
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


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

Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Alesina, A, Perotti, R and Tavares, J (1998) The political economy of fiscal adjustments. Brookings Papers of Economic Activity (Spring) 29(1), 197248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Arias, E and Stasavage, D (2019) How large are the political costs of fiscal austerity. Journal of Politics 81(4), 15171522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barnes, L and Hicks, T (2018) Making austerity popular: the media and mass attitudes towards fiscal policy. American Journal of Political Science 62(2), 340354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bechtel, M, Hainmueller, J and Margalit, Y (2014) Preferences for international redistribution: the divide over the eurozone bailouts. American Journal of Political Science 58(4), 835856.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blyth, M (2013) Austerity – The History of a Dangerous Idea. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Bojar, A et al. (2018) The effect of austerity packages on government popularity during the great recession. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE), June 23–25, Kyoto.Google Scholar
Brender, A and Drazen, A (2008) How do budget deficits and economic growth affect reelection prospects? Evidence from a large cross-section of countries. American Economic Review 98(5), 22092220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fetzer, T (2019) Did austerity cause Brexit? American Economic Review 109(11), 38493886.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giger, N and Nelson, M (2011) The electoral consequences of welfare state retrenchment: blame avoidance or credit claiming in the era of permanent austerity. European Journal of Political Research 50(1), 123.10.1111/j.1475-6765.2010.01922.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hallerberg, M and Wolff, G (2008) Fiscal institutions, fiscal policy and sovereign risk premia in EMU. Public Choice 136(3), 379396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hübscher, E (2018) The Clientelistic Turn in Welfare State Policy-Making: Party Politics in Times of Austerity. London: ECPR Press/Rowman & Littlefield International.Google Scholar
Hübscher, E and Sattler, T (2017) Fiscal consolidation under electoral risk. European Journal of Political Research 56(1), 151168.10.1111/1475-6765.12171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hübscher, E, Sattler, T and Wagner, M (2020) “Replication Data for “Voter Responses to Fiscal Austerity””,, Harvard Dataverse, V1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Immergut, EM and Abou-Chadi, T (2014) How electoral vulnerability affects pension politics: introducing a concept, measure and empirical application. European Journal of Political Research 53(2), 269287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peltzmann, S (1992) Voters as fiscal conservatives. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 107(2), 327361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pierson, P (ed) (2001) The New Politics of the Welfare State. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sattler, T, Brandt, PT and Freeman, JR (2010) Democratic accountability in open economies. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 5(1), 7197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Talving, L (2017) The electoral consequences of austerity: economic policy voting in Europe in times of crisis. West European Politics 40(3), 560583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wenzelburger, G (2011) Political strategies and fiscal retrenchment: evidence from four countries. West European Politics 34(6), 11511184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: PDF

Hübscher et al. supplementary material

Online Appendix

Download Hübscher et al. supplementary material(PDF)
Supplementary material: Link

Hübscher et al. Dataset