ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Geographies of Discontent: Regional Manufacturing Decline and Satisfaction with Democracy

Democracy
Comparative Perspective
Public Opinion
Anne-Marie Jeannet
Università degli Studi di Milano
Chiara Allegri
Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi
Anne-Marie Jeannet
Università degli Studi di Milano
Paul Maneuvrier-Hervieu
Università degli Studi di Milano

Abstract

Previous research has investigated the impact of macro-economic fluctuations on citizen satisfaction with democracy yet the role of permanent economic structural changes is overlooked. Manufacturing decline is substantively different from cyclical economic change because it is a permanent structural change rather than a temporary fluctuation. Positive citizen assessments of democracy have become, as a part of industrial society, contingent upon improving living standards and availability of work. We reason that the geographical stratification of deindustrialization exposes some regions more than others to economic insecurity, and that this can cause individuals living in those regions to question the legitimacy of their national democracy. We begin our analysis by geographically visualizing the regional manufacturing decline in European regions (NUTS 2) from 1983 to 2017. To investigate how the decline of manufacturing affects citizens’ support for democracy, we study the role of regions as sources of differential contextual exposure to deindustrialization. Deindustrialization has been a regional phenomenon because regions are historical-spatial contexts of industrial production. This has resulted in a temporal and regionally uneven pattern of transition from a manufacturing to service-based economies. Some regions have offset the loss of manufacturing with a growing service sector economy, while others have fallen into deprivation. We estimate the impact of regional manufacturing decline on citizen satisfaction with democracy by exploiting its regional and temporal variation in Europe using Eurobarometer data (1983-2017). Because the extent of manufacturing decline depends on the regions’ inital level of manufacturing production and this may be endogenous to democratic satisfaction, we employ an instrumental variable analytical strategy. We exploit the geological presence of carboniferous strata to instrument for the deindustrialization of regional manufacturing sectors of the economy. Our results show that regional industrial decline has significantly reduced citizen satisfaction with democracy, regardless of a person’s social class. By shedding light on the importance of regions as sources of contextual exposure, we demonstrate that the detrimental political effects of manufacturing decline are not merely due to occupational exposure as is conventionally believed. An important implication of our study is that the democratic discontent brought about by manufacturing decline is not simply a working-class phenomenon. Rather, geographic contextual exposure, such as regional manufacturing decline, has its own contextual political consequences. This study extends existing research in several ways. First, while regions have shaped the contours of ordinary citizens' experiences of deindustrialization and its aftermath, this aspect has been overlooked in conventional research which has been primarily occupied with explaining cross-national patterns of satisfaction with democracy rather than sub-national ones. We contribute by proposing conceptual and empirical framework for how regional manufacturing decline constitutes a contextual basis for individual differentiation in levels of democratic satisfaction in post-industrial societies. Our sub-national comparative research design, combined with an instrumental variable approach, allows us to overcome common challenges in cross-national research that make it difficult to isolate the causal role of economic restructuring from unobserved historical, cultural, and institutional explanations.