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The Political Culture of Southern Europe Reassessed: The Impact of the Economic Crisis

Irene Martin, José Ramón Montero

Southern Europe - here understood as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain -, has been well known for its high levels of political disaffection even before the economic crisis started. However, some national specificities have been overlooked. For example, while political trust, political efficacy and antiparty sentiments seemed to be rather low all over Southern Europe compared to other West European countries, interest in politics was high amongst Greeks during the eighties while it was especially low in both Portugal and Spain. Also, some changes had taken place over time even before the crisis started. Interest in politics in Greece started to drop dramatically around the mid-nineties while a slight rise has been observed in Spain since 2003. According to some recent research, the crisis in Spain has had a deep impact on political distrust but it has not diminished citizens' interest in politics. In fact, the group of "critical citizens" has grown bigger. Since the economic crisis has affected to an important extent these four countries, and has contributed to the appearance - or the intensification, depending on the case - of a political crisis in all of them, there are reasons to expect a revival of the Southern Europe disaffection syndrome. However, previous national specificities, as well as differences in the gravity and nature of the crisis lead us to wonder whether the citizenry in each of these countries is finding different ways to react and to redefine citizens' relation to politics. The aim of this paper is to reassess the political culture of Southern Europe compared to the situation in the eighties and the nineties. Can we still talk about a similar "political culture of Southern Europe"? Is it still characterized mainly by "political disaffection"? Which are the specific patterns of political attitudes in each of the four countries?

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