Abstract: In the years since the financial crisis, fiscal policy has returned to political salience across the advanced industrial democracies. Elections across Europe have been won and lost on the basis of parties' positions on budgetary expansion or consolidation. Despite theoretical expectations that increasing payments to, and reducing benefits from the state should be unpopular, little systematic empirical work considers fiscal stance as something the public may have preferences over. Given its prominence in post-2008 politics, this is an important gap in our descriptive knowledge. This paper asks and answers three questions about public support for fiscal austerity---defined as a goal of maintaining or obtaining fiscal balance. First, when and where do voters support austerity? We examine patterns in support for austerity versus Keynesian policy using Eurobarometer data for the period 2010--2016, finding marked cross-national and temporal variation in this regard---including rather distinct temporal patterns across different countries. We also demonstrate that, there is/was notable support for austerity in several countries. Second, we validate these observational inferences using a survey experiment conducted in the UK in 2015. We recover estimates of popular responsiveness to macroeconomic performance that are comparable to those estimated from contemporaneous observational (Eurobarometer) data for the UK. Third, we present results from multilevel models that seek to explain the cross-national and termporal variation in Austerian-versus-Keynesian attitudes on the basis of macroeconomic variables such as GDP growth, public debt and deficit levels, inflation, and unemployment.
Bio: Tim Hicks is a Lecturer in Public Policy at University College London, having studied Politics (DPhil) at Nuffield College, Oxford, European Public Policy (MSc) at UCL, and Economics (BSc) at Bristol. He joined the Department in the summer of 2014 from Trinity College, Dublin, where he worked as Ussher Assistant Professor of Political Economy. Tim's research interests are at the intersection of comparative politics, comparative political economy, and public policy, with a focus on 'developed democracies'. His research has examined the politics of school choice and privatization, the connections between economic inequality and political inequality, and more recently the impact of the Great Recession on attitudes toward the welfare state and fiscal policy. His articles have appeared in Journal of Politics, European Journal of Political Research, Public Administration, and Comparative Politics. In addition to his role at UCL, Tim is a Research Associate at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and a Visiting Research Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin.
Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer (Political Science, UW) will serve as the graduate student discussant.