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Online SPP Research Seminar: Voter Attitudes toward Fiscal Trade-offs: Evidence from Three Countries

Eveyne Hübscher
Wednesday, March 10, 2021, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

Political opposition against fiscal adjustment has varied significantly across countries and over time. To account for this variation, we provide a unified analysis of voter attitudes that explicitly models two interrelated trade-offs in fiscal policy: first, between fiscal cuts and deficit-spending, and second, between different spending categories. Our analysis of original survey data from three countries points to ideological cleavages across voters that one-dimensional analyses of fiscal policy cannot detect. In Germany, we find relatively large agreement among partisan voters for both trade-offs, while in Spain, and particularly in the UK, there is fundamental disagreement. These findings are consistent with actual patterns of political contestation of fiscal policy in these countries. Variation in public attitudes, therefore, shapes the political feasibility of fiscal adjustments. This means that in austerity politics there is no one-size-fits-all in political terms because the political incentive constraint of governments varies with heterogenous fiscal attitudes.