How the euro crisis bolstered beliefs in democratic principles

Hanspeter Kriesi (European University Institute)

As unemployment soared in the wake of the euro crisis, some observers feared that the economic hardship experienced across many societies and dissatisfaction with their governments’ responses to the crisis may prove too much for the resilience of some European democracies. Would the effects of the euro crisis undermine Europeans’ confidence in the principles of democracy? Would it pave the way for a resurgence of authoritarian-styled politics, particularly in places where the crisis hit hardest? In his article “The implications of the euro crisis for democracy” published in the Journal of European Public Policy, Hanspeter Kriesi draws on data from the sixth round of the European Social Survey and takes stock of Europeans’ evaluations of democracy. Hanspeter’s analysis uncovers that in the aftermath of the crisis dissatisfaction with both domestic and European politics escalated in Southern Europe, whereas Northern Europeans remained relatively content with their national politics. Somewhat counterintuitively, we should not expect those losing confidence in their governments’ capacity to effectively deal with the crisis to show democracy the cold shoulder. In fact, Hanspeter’s analysis suggests that dissatisfaction with governments’ performance strengthened citizens’ belief in democratic principles. Instead of undermining European democracies, “[b]y creating ‘critical citizens’, the economic crisis contributes to the strengthening of democratic principles.”