Sweeping it under the rug: How government parties deal with deteriorating economic conditions

Catherine E. De Vries*, Hector Solaz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Party competition in advanced industrial democracies is generally characterized as a two-dimensional space consisting of an economic and non-economic dimension. This study examines (a) the extent to which parties strategically place more emphasis on one of these dimensions vis-à-vis the other, something we coin relative emphasis, and (b) the extent to which voters perceive such shifts in relative emphasis. Our specific focus here is on government parties. We expect government parties to shift emphasis away from the economic to the non-economic dimension when economic conditions deteriorate. In doing so, they aim to reduce the importance voters attach to the economy and the degree to which voters attribute responsibility for the economy to the government. By combining expert data for 232 parties with survey data for roughly 30,000 individuals in 28 European countries in 2014, our analysis shows that while government parties generally pay more attention to the economic dimension, they shift attention to the non-economic dimension when economic conditions deteriorate. In contexts where government parties have shifted attention away from the economic to the non-economic dimension, voters overall attach less importance to the economy and attribute less responsibility to the government for the state of the economy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-75
Number of pages13
JournalParty Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

First published online: January 15, 2019


Catherine E De Vries is professor and holds the Westerdijk Chair of Political Behaviour in Europe in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She is also an affiliated professor at the University of Essex and an associate member of Nuffield College at the University of Oxford. She acts as the scientific advisor for eupinions, an independent platform for European public opinion funded through the Bertelsmann Foundation. Over the years, she has published extensively on European Union politics, public opinion, corruption and remittances in leading journals such as the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, British Journal of Political Science and Comparative Political Studies. She recently published her book Euroscepticism and the Future of European Integration with Oxford University Press (2018).

FundersFunder number
Bertelsmann Foundation


    • party strategy
    • political dimensionality
    • political parties
    • public opinion
    • responsibility attribution


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