When the Party’s Over: Political Blame Attribution under an Electoral Authoritarian Regime
Abstract How is perception of the state authorities affected when an economic downturn interferes with citizens’ patriotic unity? Which takes the upper hand: the euphoria born of geopolitical success or the hangover from economic misfortune? This study explores the variance in political support in Russia after the annexation of Crimea in the context of the economic crisis. Using a population-based survey experiment, we randomly assigned questions asking to assess the Crimea joining Russia, the state of economy in Russia, and both of them. Comparing the averages between the group with the question on Crimea and the group with both questions, we estimated the average treatment effect of the economic downturn undermining national consolidation in regard to evaluation of the president, the parliament (State Duma) and government effectiveness. Counterintuitively, the president’s rating only wins when patriotic unity is disturbed by the economic hardship, but this disturbance has no effect on evaluation of the parliament and the government effectiveness. We found that the euphoria somewhat suppresses the hangover and preserves the ratings of the State Duma and the government, which receive significantly lower effectiveness evaluations in situations where there is only a hangover (without emphasized patriotism).