Politics or the economy? Weak economic performance and political support in East and Southeast Asia

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    What are the effects of weak economic performance in East and Southeast Asia? In particular, does weak performance lead to citizens' dissatisfaction and, correspondingly, increase preference for stronger governments who may achieve economic targets more quickly? Recent elections in less-democratic nations and emergent democracies of East and Southeast Asia suggest growing support for political parties carries over from previous authorities. And, governments are harking back to policies of the past that emphasise economic performance over political development in order to motivate political support. However, few studies systematically assess how weak economic performance affects citizens' political support. This paper addresses this neglect. Using public opinion surveys from the Asian Barometer, we track how economic performance affects political support over time in countries with a multiparty system. The results offer two useful insights. First, economic performance is robustly and positively related to government approval. Thus, strong economic performance corresponds with strong support for government while weak performance yields weak support. Importantly, this finding is consistent with the large amount of literature on economic voting. Second, economic performance is not consistently related to democratic support; instead, political influence plays an intervening role in how economic performance affects democratic support. This underlines the significance of institution-building for political stability and political development in the region. Equally important, the results tie to the literature on political institutionalisation and democratic support. In conjunction, the results embrace East and Southeast Asia into the broader disciplinary research of motivation theory-building and empirical studies.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)11-29
    JournalEconomic and Political Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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