The popularity costs of economic crisis to dominant parties: evidence from Russia

The popularity costs of economic crisis to dominant parties: evidence from Russia

Tuesday, 10 May 2016 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm
Venue: 
Syndicate Room
Speaker(s): 
Dr Bryn Rosenfeld (Nuffield)
Convenor: 
Professor Paul Chaisty (St Antony's)

Dr Rosenfeld earned her Ph.D. at Princeton University in 2015 and is currently a Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, University of Oxford. In the fall of 2016, she will join the faculty of the University of Southern California as an Assistant Professor in the Department of  Political Science. Her primary research interests are comparative political behavior, development and democratization, post-communism, and survey methodology. Prior to pursuing a Ph.D., she worked for the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Opinion Research, where she designed and analyzed studies of public opinion in the former Soviet Union.

"The Popularity Costs of Economic Crisis to Dominant Parties: Evidence from Russia"

Under what conditions does poor economic performance undermine the popularity of illiberal regimes? This paper examines how economic conditions translate into economic perceptions and how both of these affect incumbent support in a hybrid regime. I argue that voters extract objective information from local conditions, and are more likely to blame incumbents for poor economic performance (1) where the economy depends strongly on the state and (2) the ruling party is most dominant. I also test the contention that voters who believe mass media are not objective will give greater weight to personal experience and local conditions. A combination of cross-regional aggregate analysis and micro-level survey data provide empirical support for the argument. Specifically, I exploit subnational variation in economic performance across Russia's regions and support for the incumbent United Russia party during a major economic downturn, combining nationally and regionally representative surveys of more than 67,000 voting-age respondents with macroeconomic data on growth and unemployment. The findings suggest that despite informational asymmetries and ruling party efforts to deflect responsibility, voters nonetheless extracted objective economic information from their personal financial experiences and local conditions. Voters were then more likely to use this information to evaluate incumbents where the structure of the regional economy and local party dominance made economic performance  a clearer indicator of the ruling party's competence.