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Neoliberalism and Democratic Disaffection in France and the UK

A Natural Experiment


Jun, 2019


Claire Dupuy, Virginie Van Ingelgom, Luis Vila-Henninger



Causal Narrative Frames: A Discursive Tool to Justify Solution

Voters are growing increasingly disenchanted with politics—and democracy more generally. Scholars tend to explain this disaffection in terms of voter characteristics or attitudes—such as socioeconomic status or dissatisfaction with the political establishment. However, there is a gap in the literature concerning the effects of policy implementation on this key link between voters and their corresponding national political system. Welfare state retrenchment, largely in the form of neoliberal social and educational policies, has been a staple of European politics over the past forty years. Is there a causal relationship between the implementation of neoliberal social and educational policies and voter democratic disaffection? For this paper we studied three natural experiments across two key cases to test the causal effects of neoliberal policy implementation on voter democratic disaffection. Controlling for voter socioeconomic status and partisan affiliation, we use a qualitative analysis of neoliberal social and educational policy in the UK and France to construct three treatment periods for both of the aforementioned countries. Using each wave of the European Election Study from 1979 to 2009, we investigate if each of these three treatment periods yields an effect on the level of voter democratic disaffection. Subsequently, we investigate if—in analogous phases of policy implementation—democratic disaffection converges or diverges between these two nations. This comparative analysis allows us to investigate arguments about the mediating effects of political institutional environments on the neoliberal policy implementation (Fourcade and Babb 2002). This study builds on and expands the comparative natural experimental design of Svallfors’ (2010) key study and helps to produce findings that meaningfully speak to the causal effects of neoliberal policy implementation on democratic disaffection within and between the UK and France.

Reference : Dupuy, Claire, Virginie Van Ingelgom, Luis Vila-Henninger, (2019), Paper prepared for the European Consortium for Political Research-Standing Group on the European Union’s Formal Session on Disaffection in/and Europe, “Neoliberalism and Democratic Disaffection in France and the UK: A Natural Experiment”, Sciences Po Paris, June 13-15, 2018

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