A Business Political Cycle? Economic Conditions and Party System Dimensionality
University at Buffalo, Political Science
August 16, 2012
As economic conditions change, so do voters’ priorities. During economic recession or crisis, economic policy and management dominate voters’ concerns, and parties with a clear ideological “brand” on the traditional, left-right, socioeconomic spectrum are best placed to attract votes. Parties that emphasize a secondary ideological dimension, such as constitutional change or postmaterialist concerns, stand to lose votes during hard times. Therefore, in multiparty systems with multiple dimensions of ideological competition, economic expansion should expand the dimensionality of the system and economic contraction should contract its dimensionality, as revealed in party vote shares. All parties can be expected to try to pivot to economic policy during recession, but parties with a previously strong profile on economic issues can position themselves most credibly. This paper tests the hypothesis that minority nationalist, environmentalist, and liberal parties tend to lose votes during recession on national election results in the advanced democracies of western Europe, North America, and the Pacific Rim. The results do not support the hypothesis. If anything, liberal parties seem to improve their performance when growth is poor or inflation is high. Perhaps nontraditional parties serve as outlets for protest votes during hard times.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25working papers series
Date posted: August 17, 2012
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