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Left Behind by Austerity? Economic Disadvantage, Fiscal Constraints, and External Political Efficacy

Political Economy
Political Engagement
Capitalism
Christoph Nguyen
Freie Universität Berlin
Christoph Nguyen
Freie Universität Berlin

Abstract

The belief that governments are no longer responsive to the needs of “ordinary citizens” has become a common charge levied against Western democracies. Compounded by the pressures of austerity politics, financial crises, and growing financialization, voters appear increasingly unconvinced that their vote matters, particularly when these same pressures have also created feelings of relative depravation and socioeconomic exclusion. Faced with such a decrease in external political efficacy, these “left behind” voters have not only withdrawn from political participation, they have also become increasingly receptive to the anti-elite rhetoric of populist parties. But while calls for more responsive governments have arisen across the political spectrum, we actually know surprisingly little about the intersection between individual disadvantage, fiscal contraction, and perceptions of government responsiveness. Are decreases in external efficacy driven by experienced or by anticipated disadvantage? Do fiscal constraints reduce efficacy universally, or are specific policy areas such as social policies particularly vulnerable? And finally, how do individual disadvantage and macro-constraints interact in shaping perceptions of responsiveness? Combining the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) survey with a host of macro-data, this paper will use multi-level modeling to investigate the interactions between individual-level disadvantage and macro-level fiscal constraints in shaping perceptions of external political efficacy.