"Facing a financial crisis of historic proportions, the specter of European economies defaulting has become a tangible and threatening possibility. With citizens' claims on welfare programs rising and a sharp drop in tax collection, governments across Europe have advanced a set of major policies aimed at addressing ballooning deficits. Two policies in particular –far reaching fiscal austerity programs and the advancement of large-scale international bailouts – have dominated much the public debate and divided electorates over the desired response to the crisis. What explains variation in voters' position on these contentious policies? Are the cleavages among the electorate a reflection of the distributive impacts of the policies, an outcome of divergent beliefs among individuals about the sources and consequences of the crisis, or perhaps a reflection of long-standing partisan attachments?
Despite the prominent role of public opinion in the crisis, scholarly research has overwhelmingly focused on the economic merits of governments' policy responses, but not on their political repercussions. My research addresses this gap by studying the individual-level and policy-specific factors that shape mass opinion on government responses to the crisis, particularly on fiscal austerity measures and international bailouts: what information do citizens possess about the crisis, who they blame for its unfolding, what type of policies are they willing to support and why – these are key questions the project will investigate. To do so, I will field surveys in five countries central to the Eurozone crisis, including both donor and recipients of the international bailout fund. The surveys include a set of embedded experiments as well as a panel component, and will provide uniquely rich data for analysis. The project seeks to provide the most thorough and empirically systematic account of how and why electorates in Europe are divided over the desired policy responses to the crisis."
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