How does economic hardship during a crisis affect people’s evaluation of the political leadership? In this paper, we investigate how the negative impact of an exogenous event like COVID-19 interacts with other important phenomena which influence leadership approval, such as partisanship, political trust, and satisfaction with democracy. Using a nationally representative survey in Indonesia (N = 1,200), we show that economic hardship does not uniformly undermine leadership approval; rather, this effect is moderated by partisanship and by satisfaction with the functioning of democracy. Of the people who voted for President Jokowi in the 2019 election, those who faced economic hardship gave him lower levels of approval than those who were better-off. At the same time, those satisfied with the functioning of democracy in the country reported higher approval even if they faced economic hardship. We discuss the policy implications of our findings and provide a theoretical framework for the mechanisms that affect leadership approval during a crisis.

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