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Does Globalization Make a Difference?

Final Report Summary - DGMD (Does Globalization Make a Difference?)

Project context and objectives

The objective of this project has been to find answers to questions about the effects of globalisation on mass politics, primarily using data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES). The CSES website has details of this dataset.

Work performed

Our most central question is this: across a wide range of democratic nations, does the extent to which their economies and polities are 'globalised' affect political parties, public attitudes and political behaviour?

The leader of this project is Prof. Jack Vowles of the University of Exeter (j.vowles@exeter.ac.uk via e-mail). This grant made it possible to make a small contribution towards his salary and to hire a research fellow to work half-time on the project for most of the period covered by the grant. Dr Georgios Xezonakis took this role, although for the final six weeks, after leaving for a new position at the University of Goteborg, he was replaced by Dr Caitlin Milazzo, who was able to work full-time for that final period.

It quickly became apparent that the size and scope of the project, pressure of Prof. Vowles' other commitments, and the need for further data collection made it desirable to seek further collaborators to work on the project. Further data collection involved the administration of an expert survey on party positions on globalisation-related issues, and perceptions of the overall salience of globalisation by country, for which Georgios Xezonakis took on the key role. To assist with this we collaborated with Tim Hellwig, of Indiana University, whose own work runs in parallel with ours. This dataset is now available to collaborators and the general academic community, and can be downloaded from the project website.

Collection of the dataset took place in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis, and we sought to use the data to analyse some of the consequences for party politics (Vowles and Xezonakis, 2009). We then returned to the prime focus of the research, organising a workshop at Exeter in June 2010 with the participation of Tim Hellwig, Steve Fisher (University of Oxford), Mark Kayser (Hertie School of Governance, Berlin), Sarah Birch (University of Essex) and Jeffrey Karp (University of Exeter). (See http://www.jackvowlesdomain.co.uk/June_Workshop.htm for further details.)

This workshop has laid the basis for an edited volume to be submitted to Oxford University Press, as part of a series dedicated to publication of outputs from the CSES. A second workshop was held in January 2012 (see http://www.jackvowlesdomain.co.uk/Globalisation_Workshop_2.htm for further details.)

Chapters are now in the process of final revision and we will submit an introductory chapter and two substantive chapters to the editors of the CSES series by the end of April 2012. Several of the papers to be included in the volume have been presented at international conferences, including those of the American Political Science Association and the Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties (EPOP) section of the British Political Studies Association.

Main results

Various findings of our book can be highlighted here. Globalisation is a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon and its effects range beyond those of economic and financial integration, although those constitute our main area of interest. One of the key currents of research into globalisation emphasises its potential to reduce the accountability of governments to electorates for their economic performance. Yet governments, even in the most closed economies, are not immune to global forces, as the financial crisis has reminded us all.

Mark Kayser and Michael Peress (University of Rochester) partition out the effects of global influences and those specific to national economies, making it possible to assign the parameters of government responsibility more clearly. Consistent with other research in economic voting, they find that voters can assign such responsibility, calling into question, or at least more clearly defining claims that globalisation necessarily limits the ability of voters to hold governments to account.

Hellwig's work for the project analyses the effects of globalisation on party policies, finding evidence that these are constrained in liberal economies but remain further apart in coordinated economies. This opens up a debate within the collaborative team: is it best that parties remain close to the median voter, or that they maintain some ideological distance to provide voters with choice?

Karp and Milazzo explore the relationships between globalisation, inequality and declining voter turnout as a possible consequence. Fisher examines the extent to which voter perceptions of government accountability and responsiveness are affected across different degrees of national financial integration.

Vowles and Xezonakis show that globalisation has not, as expected, strongly moved voters' assessments of politicians towards their performances and that, if anything, policy differences are as important if not more important under conditions of higher as compared to lower globalisation.

Xezonakis and Patriokios show that under conditions of globalisation religious parties continue to mobilise strong support, contrary to theories that assume modernisation and secularisation are part of the globalisation process. Birch takes a different angle entirely, showing that globalisation can have the effects of reducing electoral corruption in new democracies. Vowles shows that globalisation has little or no effects of perceptions that governments can or cannot 'make a difference', and explores the hypothesis that party cues and elite discourses may have greater effects on public perceptions of constraint than the objective estimates of globalisation in trade or finance.

Finally, in a chapter commissioned to fill a perceived gap after the last workshop, Erik Tillman (DePaul University) compares the effects of the global financial crisis on Iceland, Ireland, Greece, the United Kingdom and Germany, and explores its implications for globalisation.

Project website: http://www.jackvowlesdomain.co.uk/Global.html
CSES website: http://www.cses.org

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