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Work in Progress

We have been left behind, haven’t we? Economic status loss, class voting and the populist radical right


A growing body of research attempts to reconcile economic and cultural explanations of populist radical right (PRR) voting by highlighting citizens’ resentment against their gradual marginalisation within society. Nonetheless, widespread speculations about the deteriorating relative economic position of PRR voters are not supported by proper empirical evidence. To address this shortage, the present study first provides a theoretical discussion of the electoral consequences of economic status loss by bridging multidisciplinary literature on relative economic inequality and group deprivation; subsequently, it assesses such consequences empirically, by means of a novel measure of economic status loss. Our multilevel analysis on ESS and EU-SILC data on 19 elections (2008-2017) across 9 Western European countries demonstrates that PRR parties are most successful among social classes facing a collective decrease in economic status — rather than material deprivation per se. This result is consequential for scholarly debates on the reasons for class PRR alignment and on the electoral repercussions of economic inequalities.

The intergenerational foundations of class voting: social mobility and electoral choice

in Western Europe (co-authored with Juho Härkönen)


Scholarly explanations of the survival of left parties and the upsurge in mainstream politics discontent often refer to voters’ intergenerational mobility resulting from the post-industrial transition. As the occupational structure evolves, voters across generations are exposed to heterogenous life chances, and the social elevator progressively alters class voting patterns. Yet empirical evidence for the electoral implications of social ascent and decline as well as their reasons is mixed at best — likely because most empirical studies seek for homogenous average mobility effects. To address this limitation, we analyse the diverse consequences of mobility across social groups in a quasi-descriptive fashion by applying a cutting-edge ANOVA-based OLS model. Contrarily to prior studies, this approach allows us to identify class-specific mobility effects on voting (ceteris paribus), consistently with theory. Our analyses draw on individual-level detailed information on both intergenerational social mobility and political behaviour from the European Social Survey (rounds 1-9) across 19 Western European countries. Although scholarly accounts on the consequences of social mobility averagely find little to no support in our analyses, we do observe some significant and substantial class-specific effects of both social ascent and descent on voting choice.

Deindustrialization, place-based community identity and far-right voting in Europe

Drawbacks of the post-industrial transition are often observed to favour the radical right. Remarkable ethnographic evidence – primarily from the American context – suggests that this is most likely to occur in presence of a place-based community identity, meaning a particular combination of social capital and parochialism. However, comparative research based on quantitative data and considering the European context is much scarcer. To address this gap, we exploit a unique historical shock that engendered a long-lasting place-based community identity in certain Italian localities. We study whether political reactions to deindustrialization – which we analyse in an instrumental variable setting – are more acute in these areas compared to elsewhere in the country. To improve the external validity of our findings, we also construct a survey-based composite indicator of place-based community identity to assess how it moderates the relation between regional economic decline and voting in Europe using district-level official election results and individual-level survey data.