Do Voters Dislike Liberalizing Reforms? New Evidence Using Data on Satisfaction with Democracy

31 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2018  

Niclas Berggren

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN); University of Economics, Prague - Department of Institutional Economics

Christian Bjørnskov

Aarhus University - Department of Economics and Business; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN); Center for Political Studies; Institute for Corruption Studies

Date Written: February 1, 2018

Abstract

Since the early 1980s a wave of liberalizing reforms has swept over the world. While the stated motivation for these reforms has usually been to increase economic efficiency, some critics have instead inferred ulterior motives and a desire to enrich certain (already rich) people at the expense of others. This critique, coupled with the claim that many of the reforms have been undertaken during different crises so as to bypass potential opponents, suggests that people will dislike the reforms and even be less satisfied with democracy as such. We test this hypothesis empirically, using panel data from 30 European countries in the period 1993–2015. The dependent variable is the average satisfaction with democracy, while the reform measures are constructed as distinct changes in four policy areas: government size, the rule of law, openness and regulation. Our results indicate that while reforms of government size are not robustly related to satisfaction with democracy, reforms of the other three kinds are – and in a way that runs counter to the anti-liberalization claims. Reforms that reduce economic freedom are generally related to satisfaction with democracy in a negative way, while reforms that increase economic freedom are positively associated with satisfaction with democracy. Voters also react more negatively to left-wing governments introducing reforms that de-liberalize. It thus seems as if the hypothesis of a general negative reaction towards liberalizing reforms taking the form of reduced satisfaction with democracy does not stand up to empirical scrutiny, at least not in our European sample.

Keywords: Government satisfaction, reforms, crisis, public choice, voting, institutions

JEL Classification: D02, D72, H11, P11, Z18

Suggested Citation

Berggren, Niclas and Bjørnskov, Christian, Do Voters Dislike Liberalizing Reforms? New Evidence Using Data on Satisfaction with Democracy (February 1, 2018). IFN Working Paper No. 1197. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3116007

Niclas Berggren (Contact Author)

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

HOME PAGE: http://www.ifn.se/nb

University of Economics, Prague - Department of Institutional Economics ( email )

Prague
Czech Republic

Christian Bjørnskov

Aarhus University - Department of Economics and Business ( email )

Fuglesangs Allé 4
Aarhus V, DK-8210
Denmark

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

Center for Political Studies

Landgreven 3
Copenhagen K, DK-1301
Denmark

Institute for Corruption Studies

Stevenson Hall 425
Normal, IL 61790-4200
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
8
Abstract Views
110
PlumX