The Impact of the Global Recession on Party Policy Preferences

The project continues and wants to bring to an end a project that has been started at STIAS in March 2013. The research question states: Have party policy preferences changed under the impact of the global recession that started in 2007/08? Two hypotheses are tested are prominent in the literature on globalization. They are modified by a third hypothesis which takes into account type of party. Finally, we expect that the effects vary with the severity of the recession in the countries under study.

The first hypothesis assumes that as an effect of the global recession all parties shift in the direction of market-oriented, “neo-liberal” economic policies because such policies are regarded most promising to survive in a global economic competition. If this would be the case party systems offer less choice in the area of economic policies. For this reason the hypothesis has been labeled the “constraint hypothesis”.

The second hypothesis expects that all parties shift in the direction of welfare state policies to offer more comprehensive social protection to those who suffer the negative consequences of the global recession. This hypothesis is known as the “compensation hypothesis”.

The third hypothesis is of an intervening nature. It takes into account the differences in the programmatic profiles of the various types of political parties. Thus, we expect a greater swing towards market-oriented “neo-liberal” economic policies in the case of liberal and conservative parties. Similarly, a change in the direction of more welfare provisions is expected for the socialist and social democratic parties.

Fourth, and last, we expect that the effects predicted by hypotheses 1 to 3 will be greater the higher the impact of the global recession in a particular country.

In 2013 we have presented a first exploration of these hypotheses. Results did not contradict the hypothesis cited above. However, the data-base was much too small to allow any generalizations. In the meantime we have broadened the data-base decisively. We have collected data for 244 parties or party alliances from 34 countries. For these parties party election programs are available for at least one national parliamentary election before and at least one such election after the global recession of 2007/08 (a total of 102 elections). Economic and welfare state policies advertised in the party election programs have been classified to allow tests of hypotheses 1 and 2. Type of party has been measured by a party’s membership in a supra-national party organization such as the Socialist International or the Liberal International. This allows a test of the third hypothesis. Finally, with the help of economists, we have collected economic indicators that allow us to measure the relative impact of the global recession in a great part of the countries under study to test hypothesis 4.

My stay at STIAS in April and May 2015 will provide the unique opportunity to finish the analysis on the impact of the global recession on the programmatic behavior of political parties.

Project leader(s):
  • Hans-Dieter Klingemann (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung)

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