Social and Fiscal Policy Preferences and Priorities

Governments constantly face fiscal policy trade-offs. In times of permanent austerity, resources are scare which presents policy-makers with difficult choices. They have to fear electoral punishment because existing research shows that citizens support most forms of government spending. At the same time, it is said that most citizens also strongly oppose taxation or government debt. Yet, we know very about public opinion towards fiscal policy trade-offs. Therefore, my research shifts the focus from citizens’ preferences towards their priorities.

First, in a joint research project, Björn Bremer and I study public opinion towards (i) fiscal policies (including government spending, taxation, and government debt) and (ii) social policies (including various forms of social investment and social consumption). The research project brings together our substantive interests in the politics of fiscal policies and the welfare state and it uses original conjoint and split-sample survey experiments in four European countries (Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK) to capture the multidimensionality of fiscal and social policies. Disentangling the preferences towards different policies in this way allows us to analyze the citizens’ priorities when they are confronted with some of the trade-offs that are inherent in policy-making.

Second, I have recently joined the ERC Welfare Priorities project, directed by Silja Häusermann, where I continue to work on social policy preferences and priorities with a wonderful team of researchers. We have a forthcoming paper showing that attitudes towards the redistributive role of the state have polarized in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. In the future, we will explore the mechanism behind solidaristic reforms, i.e., reforms that aim to expand benefits and services to people who are worse-off (e.g., those coping with precarious employment and old-age poverty, immigrants).


Current Working Papers

  • Do Citizens Care About Government Debt? Evidence from Survey Experiments on Budgetary Priorities (with Björn Bremer, under review). Current Version
  • Public Opinion on Welfare State Recalibration in Times of Austerity: Evidence from Survey Experiments (with Björn Bremer, under review). Current Version

Work in Progress

  • Is the Low Tax Doctrine Rooted in Public Opinion? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Four European Countries (with Björn Bremer).
Reto Bürgisser
Reto Bürgisser
Postdoctoral Researcher

My research interests include political economy, comparative politics, and political behavior.