Abstract : Despite a long history of research on political budget cycles, their existence and magnitude are still in question. By conducting a systematic analysis of the existing literature we intend to clarify the debate. Based on data collected from over 1; 700 regressions and 57 studies, our meta-analysis suggests that leaders do manipulate fiscal tools in order to be re-elected but to an extent that is significantly exaggerated by scholars. However, we show the incumbents' strategy differs depending on which tools they leverage. Finally, we discuss in further details how authors' methodological choices and country institutions affect political budget cycles.