The Ideological Basis of the Grexit Debate

Working Paper
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What explains the sharp divide among European publics over the Grexit? We explore this question using original surveys from four of the largest European economies. We contend that differences in citizens' own economic interests, as well as the often-mentioned chasm between supporters of mainstream and extremist parties, provide little insight into the public divide over the Grexit. Instead, we show that the key factor is the split between the left and right. We then develop and test a set of theoretical explanations for this cleavage. We find that the left-right divide over the Grexit is not driven by differences in attitudes on redistribution, levels of empathy, or general EU support. Instead, we find that the primary mechanism is that left and right voters have different expectations about the impact of a Grexit on the European economy as a whole. These expectations largely reflect differences in core beliefs about the promise of a free-market approach.

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