The End of Austerity as Common Sense?: An Experimental Analysis of Public Opinion Shifts and Class Dynamics During the Covid-19 Crisis
New Political Economy
GB : Carfax
Covid-19, France, Public opinion, Austerity policy, Sociaal class
The Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting the international political economy unlike any event since WWII. Consequently, France reversed years of fiscal consolidation by instating, at least temporarily, a costly emergency furlough scheme reaching a third of the workforce. This provides a natural setting to investigate a potential ‘critical juncture’, and whether the French public still accepts austerity politics today, as it seems to have after the Global Financial Crisis. We observe crisis narratives’ salience across social classes, employing an original quantitative approach for Critical Political Economy, which uses panel data and two experiments. We test if citizens’ viewpoints are sensitive to the trade-off between health and economics, receptive to austerity and conditioned by their socioeconomic status. We find that public opinion shifted after an authoritative and dire economic forecast at the pandemic’s first peak in April 2020, but that acquiescence to austerity did not occur during the phase-out of the first lockdown in June, with the exception of the upper class. Overall, public support favours increased social spending, and pro-austerity crisis narratives might not shape the majority’s ‘common sense’, as they had after the GFC. We conclude with implications for the study of class and public policy in a post-pandemic world.