Acceptance of austerity policies: evidence from a survey experiment
- 422 School of Education
What drives people to accept or resist austerity?
This paper examines the way framing provided by populist leaders can activate certain political attitudes towards austerity. Accepting that the key mechanism in populist framing is the ability to attribute blame to other agents, we argue that populism is about the redistribution of anger (Pappas 2014). Therefore our main research question is: Does the framing of austerity policies affect the way those policies are perceived by the general public? Using the case of Greece as a country still under heavy austerity measures, we examine how populist framing of austerity by non-austerity parties changes the levels of support for egocentric and sociotropic political issues. The paradox developing in the Greek case is that as an opposition party the left-wing party Syriza was a fervent opponent of austerity measures - yet once in government, Syriza implemented one of the harsher austerity packages for Greece. We argue that the framing of austerity policies under a populist anti-austerity party impacts the levels of agreement with such measures as they are perceived by the public. We employ a vignette social experiment where stories represent real situations (leaders' official statements on austerity in Greece) to elicit voters' preferences and judgements. This helps us ascertain the degree of influence of the framing of austerity policy; whether it affects acceptance or toleration at the civic level; whether collective emotions of anger shape attitudes towards austerity; and whether civic populism (Mudde & Kaltwasser 2013) feeds into austerity policies. Our primary findings suggest that although there is an ideological significance, people tend to be less resistant with austerity as a paradigm from political leaders who are able to shift the blame externally and provide reassurances of return to the status quo.
Theofanis Exadaktylos is Senior Lecturer in European Politics at the Department of Politics at the University of Surrey. His research agenda includes Europeanization; politics of austerity in Europe; public policy implementation and political trust; emotions and perceptions of crises; the rise of populism and the emergence of national stereotypes in the media. He is the co-editor of the JCMS Annual Review. He co-convenes the ECPR Standing Group on Political Methodology.