Hooghe, M., & Okolikj, M. (2018) The Long-term Effects of Economic Crisis on Political Trust in Europe. Is There a Negativity Bias in the Relation Between Economic Performance and Political Support?

Abstract: Previous studies have shown that the economic crisis starting in 2008 has been associated with a sharp decline in political trust in liberal democracies, and this literature suggest that in this manner an economic downturn might contribute to a more structural crisis of democratic legitimacy. Already from 2011 on, however, unemployment levels in industrialized democracies started to decline. In this paper we investigate how public opinion reacted to this gradual economic recovery. Previous work on a negativity bias in economic evaluations would suggest that public opinion reacts more sharply to an economic downturn than to economic growth. Our analysis of the full ESS data from 2002 to 2016 suggests that public reacted positively to economic recovery, with levels of political trust gradually rising to pre-crisis levels. In the discussion section, we reflect on what our findings imply, not just for the nature of political trust, but also for the study of long term trends in political trust.

Quinlan, S., & Okolikj, M. (2017) Patrimonial Economic Voting: a Cross-National Analysis of Asset Ownership and its Impact on the Vote (under review)

Abstract: Our study examines the impact possession of assets has on the vote in 32 countries. Most existing scholarship on economic voting has stressed valence models that focus on the rewards and punishments directed at governments by voters depending on their stewardship of the economy. Here, we focus on an alternative dimension – the role of patrimony – asset ownership. We fill an important void by providing the first comprehensive test of patrimony’s effect on the vote cross-nationally. Using Module 4 of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) and hierarchical models, we show that asset ownership increases the likelihood of supporting parties of the right in various countries. This relationship is stronger in rich countries and states with a liberal welfare system, showing macro diversity for patrimony’s influence on voters. Conversely, we find little support that macro variation is a result of party polarisation. Our research contributes to the developing literature on patrimonial voting. Our findings support the principle that economic voting is multidimensional but also highlights that ‘context matters’ for all aspects of economic voting.

Okolikj, M., & Elkink, J. (2016) Comparing with Which Neighbours? A Test of Economic Benchmark Voting

Abstract: Economic voting theory is based on a very simple notion: “voters support the incumbent government if the economy is doing well, otherwise the vote is against” (Lewis-Beck and Paldam 2000). However, the evidence that voters reward and punish incumbent governments for economic performance is rather unstable or weak (Duch and Stevenson 2008; Anderson 2007; Van der Brug et al. 2007). Our line of inquiry studies the relevance of economic performance in other countries, the so-called “benchmark vote” (Kayser and Peress 2012). Voters do not directly evaluate their government’s performance, but how their government performs relative to other countries. We extend the empirical analysis of the benchmark vote using geographically weighted connection matrices, as well as measures of trade connectivity between countries. We argue that countries that are geographically proximate to each other or have intensive trading ties are likely to operate in a similar economic environment, and thus face similar constraints on economic policy. If voters see such similar countries performing badly, their expectations of their own government are also lower. Using a unique data set, our data includes 84 countries with 809 democratic elections since 1945 our empirical modeling strategy will include both the spatial (network) and temporal dependencies.

Okolikj, M. (2015) Quality of Government and Incumbents Performance: A Re-conceptualisation of Economic Voting Theory

Abstract: A conventional wisdom among scholars of electoral studies holds that good economic performance correlates with incumbent government advantage in elections. Yet, cross national empirical studies of this reward-punishment hypothesis produces inconsistent and relatively weak results. The aim of this study is to re-conceptualise the retrospective economic voting model by taking into account the mediating factor of quality of government. I argue that the quality of government is the missing link that determines electoral behaviour and impacts on the link between economic performance and vote choice. Economic performance without taking in consideration the economic and social development, i.e. good governance, lacks an essential part that would explain voters behaviour. Thus, this study provides evidence of rational retrospective voting when quality of government is incorporated in the economic voting model.