Martin Gross, Constantin Schäfer
What moves party systems in times of crises? Economic conditions, public opinion and the domestic electoral arena

Conference DVWP AK Parteienforschung “Change and Future Viability of Party Democracy in Europe”, Düsseldorf, October 13th to October 14th, 2017

The sovereign debt and economic crisis shaped European and domestic public discourses and party competition in European Union (EU) member states in the last years. We adopt a party system-perspective to analyse to what extent the Euro crisis “moved” party systems to more Eurosceptic positions and if the Euro crisis led to higher politicisation levels of European integration issues in domestic electoral arenas. Based on Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES) data, macroeconomic indicators and public opinion shifts, we conclude that the Euro crisis partly altered party competition in EU member states. On average, party systems slightly became more Eurosceptic. Even though the large majority of national party systems saw an increase in the politicisation of European integration issues, economic indicators and public opinion shifts are not unequivocally decisive for this shift. Rather, a worsening of a country’s economy affected public opinion shifts to less favourable positions towards the EU which in turn has been mirrored—in a majority of the party systems—by increasing levels of polarisation regarding European integration.