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Democracy without choice: Citizens’ perceptions of government autonomy during the Eurozone crisis

Ruiz-Rufino, Ruben, Alonso, Sonia, (2016), «Democracy without choice: Citizens’ perceptions of government autonomy during the Eurozone crisis», European Journal of Political Research, 56(2), 320-345, 30 Δεκεμβρίου

In this article it is argued that citizens take into account the degree of a government’s political autonomy to implement particular policies when expressing their views on satisfaction with democracy (SWD) but, in order to do so, they need to perceive it. When citizens directly observe the external constraints that reduce their government’s autonomy, then variations in levels of regime satisfaction may no longer be exclusively about government performance – as widely argued by political economists – but also about democratic choice. The argument develops after comparing the existing scenarios in the Eurozone before and after the Great Recession. Citizens only began to perceive their own lack of choice to decide between policy alternatives when the sovereign debt crisis broke out in May 2010, the date of the first Greek bail-out. It is then when citizens started to update their beliefs about the functioning of democracy as a system in which alternative policies can be adopted as bail-out deals were signed between national governments from the Euro periphery and the Troika. This updating process towards the way democracy works explains the increasing gap in the levels of SWD between bailed-out economies and the rest of the countries in the Eurozone. Empirical confirmation for this claim is found after analysing Eurobarometer surveys from 2002 to 2014 and using a two-step difference-in-difference analysis that combines individual and aggregate data.

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