Patrícia Calca, Martin Gross
To adapt or to disregard? Parties' reactions to external shocks

5th Annual General Conference of the European Political Science Association, Vienna, June 25th to June 27th, 2015

Institutions adapt in order to survive. Political parties are no exception to this rule. Many parties adapt successfully to and address challenges from slow processes like dealignment, but how do parties react to fast and unexpected processes like external shocks? In this paper, we argue that parties meet this question in two different ways, either by adapting or by disregarding them. We look at the specific unexpected process of the economic and financial crisis that started in 2007-2008. This event is considered as an external shock that European parties had to deal with. However, we expect this to be dependent on the impact of the external shock as well as on parties’ status as government or opposition parties. We test our expectations for party policy shifts on economic issues by using expert judgements of the Chapel Hill Expert Survey. The empirical findings corroborate our theoretical expectations. Parties substantially change their policy positions in countries where the external shock was more severe. However, this finding only is valid for government parties.