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Does the economic cycle affect self-placement on the left-right political spectrum? Evidence from public opinion surveys in European Union countries

Open Panel

Abstract

A cohort of factors may influence and determine the political self-placement by European citizens, as this is recorded in various public opinion surveys using left-right figurative scales. Among a plethora of possible factors, such determinants of political self-placement include ideological leanings as well as citizens’ current economic circumstances or expectations for their future standard of living. The usual fluctuations in the economic cycle and economic activity clearly affect both the current as well as the expectations for the future economic circumstances of households. During periods of economic downturns the average household may experience reduced income and consumption as well as the specter of unemployment given that an economic contraction invariably reduces the demand for labor. Similarly, during an upturn of the economy, citizens and households, on average, tend to witness improvements in their overall economic situation. It is possible that such fluctuations influence their self-placement on the left-right scale of the ideological spectrum as this is captured by Eurobarometer’s public opinion surveys that report, among others, the self-placement of European Union citizens on the a left-right scale of the political range. Using panel data techniques, this paper examines whether an empirical nexus between fluctuations in the economic cycle on the one hand and the political self-placement of citizens in selected European Union countries on the other, can be empirically established.