Martin Gross
Economic hardship and the policy emphases of political parties in the last weeks of an election campaign: Evidence from nine European countries

75th Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), Chicago, IL, 06. bis 09. April 2017

An economic crisis can have a major impact on the policy preferences of voters, the policy profile of parties and, ultimately, on the outputs of the legislative process. However, the consequences of such an exogenous shock for the programmatic profile of parties can vary across institutional settings and characteristics of parties. We focus in this paper on the impact of the European economic and financial crisis on the level of issue saliency that party representatives attach to economic policy areas in the weeks before the election. We argue that parties should develop a policy profile that serves the interests of the respective party’s core voter clientele. In addition, we expect that the status of a party as a member of the government or opposition camp has―in combination with the degree of economic hardship―a mediating influence on the party-specific saliency of economic policy in the weeks before the election. We test our expectations on the basis of a novel dataset that covers information on the statements of party representatives in nine European countries during election campaigns before and after the outbreak of the European debt crisis. We find evidence for our expectations that parties highlight issues during the election campaign which are of key relevance for their supporters. Furthermore, representatives of opposition parties emphasize economic issues the more a country faces economic hardship.