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Conference Examines Politics of Economic Crisis

April 11, 2011

This past Friday, April 8, the European Union Center cosponsored a day-long conference that focused on political responses to the recent financial crisis. The conference featured leading scholars  of European politics and political economy from universities across the country. Although the conference was officially entitled “European Responses to the Economic Crisis,” many presentations were organized around comparisons between European countries and the U.S. The morning presentations examined concrete policy responses to the crisis. Although the key questions and methodological approaches varied among presenters, they pointed to several factors that help to determine how countries respond, including domestic political institutions, economic beliefs among elites, pressures from international investors, and the effects of past decisions.

The afternoon sessions looked at public responses to the crisis, specifically whom electorates blamed. Polls have shown that citizens across countries vary in the extent to which they primarily blame governments, foreign countries, banks, or other actors for the financial meltdown. Some of the presenters attempted to explain this variation, while others examined the electoral consequences of the crisis for governments. This was a particularly relevant topic, in light of recent events. We have seen an historic loss by Ireland’s ruling party, the collapse of the governing coalition in Portugal, and electoral setbacks to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in German local elections. The findings presented on Friday help provide some theoretical insight into these events. Overall, the conference was an excellent forum for scholars to share some of the exciting new research that they are doing on these topical and important questions. The full papers are available on the EU Center webpage, and we plan to eventually post video recordings of many of the presentations on our multimedia page.

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