The research project deals with the impact of a severe global economic crisis on political parties in representative democracies. At its core it investigates the consequences of the economic crisis on (1) the parties’ policy supply as presented in their party election programmes and (2) the parties’ election results. Two hypotheses are tested. First, it is expected that the degree to which problems related to the economic crisis are emphasized in party election programmes co-varies with the degree to which the economic crisis has hit a country. This expectation is based on the assumption that in competitive democracies political parties are expected to respond to a country’s problem agenda programmatically. Second, it is proposed that the greater the impact of the economic crisis the greater the consequences for political parties at elections. Government parties should lose electoral support because they are blamed for the bad times. Opposition parties should increase their electoral support because they are regarded as the alternative problem-solving actor. This well-known government-opposition mechanism can, however, be modified by the performance of the political parties and part-related actors.
Based on the work of a group of economists involved in the project “Democracy under Stress” (2012) the impact of an economic crisis is measured as the difference between the projected development of a country’s GDP based on statistical information before the economic crisis (T1) and the development of its GDP based on statistical information gathered after the economic crisis (T2). The larger the difference the greater the impact of the economic crisis. The empirical analysis compares the situation of the elections before (T1) and the elections after the economic crisis (T2). For pragmatic reasons attention will be limited to countries for which quantitative data are available that describe the content of the parties’ election programmes.