In 2011, the government of the United Kingdom introduced wide-ranging austerity policies to deal with high public debt in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Austerity lasted for a decade. The resulting cuts to government spending on public investment, services, and social protection, especially during the initial fiscal consolidation phase of 2011-2015, incurred significant welfare losses on the population. We provide evidence from observational microeconomic data and a large-scale online experiment in the UK which shows that exposure to welfare losses from austerity spurs political participation and increases citizens’ preferences for government redistribution. In particular, people express support for raising taxes on richer citizens to consolidate public debt, and for increasing welfare spending to cushion hardship for the vulnerable. Our experimental data further suggests that a change in individual preferences for redistribution might be one relevant channel through which austerity can affect political participation.