The severity of the recent economic crisis in Europe provides an opportunity to test some of the conventional hypotheses about the effects of economic adversity on election outcomes in a broadly comparative context. In 16 of 27 elections held in EU member countries between 2008 and the end of 2011, incumbent governments went down to defeat. In many of the cases in which a governing party was defeated, a government of the center-left was replaced by one of the center-right. The average level of decline in the share of the vote for governing parties (-8.1%) however was surprisingly modest in comparison with previous election cycles. Nevertheless, the results were devastating for governing parties in a number of instances, such as Ireland or Hungary. We also consider the relative merits of retrospective and prospective interpretations of these outcomes in the light of contextual effects arising from factors such as globalization and institutional clarity as these affect perceptions of the responsibility of governing parties or coalitions in coping with the crisis in the domestic political environment. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
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