- “Economic Outcomes, Quality of Governance, and Satisfaction with Democracy,” November 2016. Under review for inclusion in C. Van Ham et al. (eds.), Myth and Reality of the Legitimacy Crisis: Explaining Trends and Cross-National Differences in Established Democracies.
- “A Tale of Two Elections: Information, Motivated Reasoning, and the Economy in the 2011 and 2015 Portuguese Elections,” November 2016
- “Economy, Ideology, and the Elephant in the Room: A Research Note on the Elections of the Great Recession in Europe,” August 2012.
- “Political Culture in Southern Europe: Searching for Exceptionalism,” with Mariano Torcal, February 2009.
- “Exposure to Polls, Cognitive Mobilization and Voting Behavior: the 2002 Elections in Portugal,” December 2006.
- “Thinner than Thin: Political Culture and Political Action in Portugal,” with André Freire and Ana Espírito Santo, February 2003.
- “Whatever Happened to Portuguese Euroscepticism? The Depoliticization of Europe and its Consequences,” December 2002.
Citizens’ satisfaction with the way democracy works in practice in their country seems to be driven by, among other factors, short-term economic performance. However, this effect seems to be unstable, and in some cases has even failed to be confirmed. This paper suggests a cause for that instability. It takes as its starting point a fundamental insight of social and organisational psychology: the existence of a fundamental process-outcome interaction, through which procedural fairness and the overall quality and transparency of decision-making moderates the effects of outcome favorability in the explanation of support for decision-makers and authorities in organisations. Using data from six waves of the European Social Survey, it shows that the effect of objective economic performance on satisfaction with democracy across Europe is indeed moderated by procedural fairness, as captured by country-year measures of impartiality in public administration or the overall quality of governance.
Economic performance is thought to be a powerful driver of incumbent electoral performance, and GDP growth and unemployment to be the “big two” factors involved. Voters are typically described as relatively myopic, focusing on what happened to the economy, at most, in the last year. But from this point of view, the comparison between the election results of 2011 and 2015 in Portugal is puzzling. Under a profound economic recession and growing unemployment, the Socialists lost about one-fourth of the electorate in 2011. Under a recovering economy and declining unemployment, the center-right coalition also lost about one-fourth of the electorate in 2015. Why has this happened? We explore three alternative hypotheses: (1) the economy became a less salient issue in 2015; (2) responsibility for economic outcomes became more blurred in 2015; and (3) national economic evaluations were more contaminated by partisanship and affected by cognitive resources and personal economic experiences in 2015. Our analysis of the evidence favors the latter hypothesis, thus supporting an emerging argument in the literature suggesting that only under economic downturns can citizens’ evaluations of the economy be seen as mostly exogenous.
The electoral performance of incumbent parties in legislative elections in Europe since the beginning of the “Great Recession” has been described in two contrasting ways. For some, it has been characterized by an “anti-leftist” wave, signalling a change in voters fundamental preferences against leftist parties and policies. For others, ideology has had little to do with recent events: instead, voters have simply punished incumbents for bad performances and rewarded them for good ones, as a simple “retrospective voting” theory would suggest. Looking at the electoral performance of Prime Ministers’ parties from January 2008 until today, the paper shows that results are, instead, most compatible with a “luxury parties” hypothesis: under conditions of low or negative growth, leftist incumbents have done significantly worse than rightist ones, while, for those countries where growth resumed, leftist incumbents have done significantly better. Furthermore, the paper suggests that part of the continued decline in the electoral performance of incumbents in many countries observed until today is fundamentally a Eurozone phenomenon: voters in those countries seem to be turning their dissatisfaction with the protracted financial, currency, and political crisis in the Eurozone to the target more at hand – i.e., national governments – punishing them increasingly and above and beyond what developments in the domestic economic would justify.
Although opinions about Portuguese membership in the EU have ceased to play a crucial role both in party appeals and electoral behavior, that is not the case in what concerns their impact on other forms of political behavior and attitudes. More specifically, I will suggest that the decline in electoral turnout currently experienced in Portugal, particularly since 1995, cannot be fully understood with exploring the combination between resilient Euroscepticism among a minority of the population and the depoliticization of Europe at the level of political élites. Furthermore, I will also suggest that, under the present conditions, anti-Europeanism may have developed into a more permanent and disturbing set of political attitudes of mistrust in, and disengagement from, domestic political institutions.