Left-Right Ideology and the Debate over International Bailouts: The Case of Grexit

Journal Articles
The Journal of Politics

What explains the sharp divide in European public attitudes toward Grexit? We explore this question using original surveys from four of the largest European economies. We contend that differences in economic self-interest, and the often-mentioned chasm between supporters of mainstream and extremist parties, provide little insight into the public divide over Grexit. Instead, we show that the key factor is the split between the left and the right. We then develop and test a set of theoretical explanations for the prominence of this cleavage. We find that the left-right divide over Grexit is not driven by differences in attitudes on redistribution, levels of empathy, or general European Union support. Instead, left and right voters seem to have different expectations about how a default and exit of a currency-union member would affect the European economy. These expectations likely reflect differences in core beliefs about the consequences of a free-market approach.

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