Skip to main content Accessibility help

All Keynesians now? Public support for countercyclical government borrowing

  • Lucy Barnes (a1) and Timothy Hicks (a1)


In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, macroeconomic policy returned to the political agenda, and the influence of Keynesian ideas about fiscal stimulus rose (and then fell) in expert circles. Much less is known, however, about whether and when Keynesian prescriptions for countercyclical spending have any support among the general public. We use a survey experiment, fielded twice, to recover the extent to which UK respondents hold such countercyclical attitudes. Our results indicate that public opinion was countercyclical—Keynesian—in 2016. We then use Eurobarometer data to estimate the same basic parameter for the population for the period 2010–2017. The observational results validate our experimental findings for the later period, but also provide evidence that the UK population held procyclical views at the start of the period. Thus, there appear to be important dynamics in public opinion on a key macroeconomic policy issue.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email:


Hide All
Alesina, A, Carloni, D and Lecce, G (2013) The electoral consequences of large fiscal adjustments. In Alesina, A and Giavazzi, F (eds). Fiscal Policy after the Financial Crisis. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, pp. 531570,
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.
Bartle, J, Dellepiane-Avellaneda, S and Stimson, J (2011) The moving centre: preferences for government activity in Britain, 1950–2005. British Journal of Political Science 41(2), 259285.
Bisgaard, M and Slothuus, R (2018) Partisan elites as culprits? How party cues shape partisan perceptual gaps. American Journal of Political Science 62(2), 456469.
Blinder, AS and Holtz-Eakin, D (1983) Public opinion and the balanced budget. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working paper, Working paper series 1234, November. doi:10.3386/w1234. Available at
Blyth, M (2013) Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Brender, A and Drazen, A (2008) How do budget deficits and economic growth affect reelection prospects? Evidence from a large panel of countries. American Economic Review 98(5), 22032220.
Carlin, W and Soskice, D (2006) Macroeconomics: Imperfections, Institutions & Policies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Cowley, P and Kavanagh, D (2016) The British General Election of 2015. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
Evans, G and Pickup, M (2010) Reversing the causal arrow: the political conditioning of economic perceptions in the 2000–2004 U.S. presidential election cycle. Journal of Politics 72(4), 12361251.
Farrell, H and Quiggin, J (2017) Consensus, dissensus, and economic ideas: economic crisis and the rise and fall of keynesianism. International Studies Quarterly 61, 269283.
Hibbs, DA (1977) Political parties and macroeconomic policy. American Political Science Review 71(4), 14671487.
Hübscher, E and Sattler, T (2017) Fiscal consolidation under electoral risk. European Journal of Political Research 56(1), 151168.
Kayser, MA and Peress, M (2012) Benchmarking across borders: electoral accountability and the necessity of comparison. American Political Science Review 106(3), 661684.
Lindvall, J (2014) The electoral consequences of two great crises. European Journal of Political Research 53(4), 747765.
Modigliani, A and Modigliani, F (1987) The growth of the federal deficit and the role of public attitudes. Public Opinion Quarterly 51(4), 459480.
Peltzman, S (1992) Voters as fiscal conservatives. Quarterly Journal of Economics 107(2), 327361.
Stevenson, RT (2001) The economy and policy mood: a fundamental dynamic of democratic politics? American Journal of Political Science 45(3), 620633.
Stimson, JA (2015) Tides of Consent: How Public Opinion Shapes American Politics. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Wlezien, C (1995) The public as thermostat: dynamics of preferences for spending. American Journal of Political Science 39(4), 9811000.


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Barnes and Hicks Dataset

Supplementary materials

Barnes and Hicks supplementary material
Barnes and Hicks supplementary material

 PDF (757 KB)
757 KB

All Keynesians now? Public support for countercyclical government borrowing

  • Lucy Barnes (a1) and Timothy Hicks (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed