Citizens or Clients? Evidence on Opportunistic Voting from a Natural Experiment in Greece

46 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2013

See all articles by Konstantinos Matakos

Konstantinos Matakos

King's College London, Dept. of Political Economy

Dimitrios Xefteris

University of Cyprus

Date Written: 2013


Electoral fragmentation is found to have a positive effect on government spending (Persson et al. 2007). We use data from Greek elections and exploit, as a natural experiment, the underreporting of Greece’s past fiscal record in order to document a reverse causal link and identify the effect of government spending on electoral fragmentation. The retrospective revision of Greece’s deficit figures before the elections constituted an information shock which generated expectations for reduced government spending. We find that expected spending cuts caused a steep decline in the electoral support for dominant parties (a record increase in fragmentation). We decompose this decline into two components and uncover the mechanisms taking place: protest voting and rent-seeking voting (client-voters abandoning the dominant parties due to less expected rents). We document that the latter effect dominates in patronage-intense regions, using the share of public sector employment as a proxy (Robinson and Verdier 2013), and we find that support for dominant parties declined by 5% more on those regions. That is, only one out of seven voters that abandoned the big parties did so out of purely opportunistic motivations, challenging the conventional wisdom of the Greek citizen-client.

Keywords: Greek elections, electoral fragmentation, government spending, machine parties, natural experiment, rent-seeking voters, clientelism, protest voting, trust.

JEL Classification: C23, D72, H50, H62

Suggested Citation

Matakos, Konstantinos and Xefteris, Dimitrios, Citizens or Clients? Evidence on Opportunistic Voting from a Natural Experiment in Greece (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN:

Konstantinos Matakos (Contact Author)

King's College London, Dept. of Political Economy ( email )

Strand Campus
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://

Dimitrios Xefteris

University of Cyprus ( email )

75 Kallipoleos Street
P.O. Box 20537
1678 Nicosia

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