Electoral Contaminations and Spill-Overs during the Great Recession

Comparative Politics
Electoral Behaviour
Voting Behaviour
Marco Giuliani
Università degli Studi di Milano
Marco Giuliani
Università degli Studi di Milano

The literature on the economic vote has made clear that socio-tropic considerations are more relevant than ego-tropic ones. In their electoral behavior, citizens evaluate retrospectively the general state of the economy, more than its impact on the personal well-being. In a sense, the reward-punishment mechanism at the heart of that theory assumes implicitly that citizens behave individually as part of a wider community.
This paper would like to address the issue of the spatial and temporal borders of that community during the Great recession. Our intuition is that, during that period of widespread and protracted negative state of the economy, not only economic issues have been perceived more than ever as the most important problems, but the fear of domino effects, the common reactions to European austerity policies, and the news coming from other countries may have altered the local perception of the economy, thus impacting on the electoral behavior beyond the usual national frontiers. The interconnectedness of European democracies and economies, coupled with the strains of the Great recession, may have multiplied the political contaminations and spill-overs across countries, with the ubiquitous flourishing of populist and Eurosceptic parties being a qualitative example of those effects.
Usually, quantitative tests of the economic vote theory follow a cross-country (and sometimes time-series) research design, taking the single election as unit of analysis. The assumption is that each ballot is independent, and electoral behavior is entirely defined by domestic variables. We want to relax that assumption, by explicitly investigating geographical and temporal linkages using spatial regression models applied to a dataset of elections that took place in the EU-28 member states in the last decade. The idea is that, beyond the validation of local effects, we should find elements for the confirmation of cross-borders impacts of the state of the economy. Further than reflecting the internal and time-specific state of the economy, patterns of electoral behavior should reflect what happens in contiguous countries, and in closed years.
Since we have not yet tested any of these effects, and the paper proposal simply reflects an intuition and a research interest in the singularities of the Great recession period, we are not promising any positive results. At worst, we could identify negative evidence on the lack of interconnectedness of the (fraction of) electoral behavior dependent on the state of the economy.
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