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Research

Work in Progress

Left Behind Whom? Economic Status Loss and Populist Radical Right Voting

Under review.
Manuscript (preprint) available online:
https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/m6swx

Citizens’ resentment at losing out to the rest of society is commonly regarded as the foundation of the demand for the populist radical right (PRR). Yet whether this motive has an objective economic basis remains disputed. Relying on ESS individual-level data from 23 elections across Western Europe, combined with Eurostat data, I demonstrate that the PRR polls better among social classes facing economic status loss. To do so, I leverage a novel positional measure of income. This approach allows me to gauge economic status loss as a distinct experience from worsening financial circumstances — which empirical research has chiefly focused on. Evidence that the former, rather than the latter, is the economic engine of PRR support is further corroborated by data on cultural stances and redistributive preferences. My study confirms the complementarity of cultural- and economic-based explanations of PRR voting and reveals one electoral consequence of rising economic inequalities.

The Intergenerational Foundations of Class Voting: Social Mobility and Electoral Choice in Western Europe (co-authored with Juho Härkönen)

Submitted for review.
Manuscript (preprint) available online:
https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/u7zf4

Does intergenerational social mobility affect voting choice? We contend that existing studies on the subject exhibit a disconnection from recent research on the occupational class bases of politics that considers horizontal as well as vertical class distinctions. Also, many such studies do not appropriately control for the independent effects of one’s parental class and the class reached in adulthood. These two shortcomings have led to limited conclusions about social mobility and politics. Based on pooled European Social Survey data from 19 countries, we study social mobility and voting for center-right, center-left, radical right, and radical left parties using the recently developed Mobility Contrast Model, which allows to identify effects of mobility across a bidimensional class schema. We find no general effects of social mobility, but specific mobility trajectories that are related to voting choice. We discuss our findings in light of research on the socioeconomic bases of politics.

It Takes a Village: Economic Decay, Rootedness and Voting

Under review.
Manuscript (preprint) available online:
https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/wamxs

Peripheral regions facing economic decline are key to the success of the far right. Ethnographic evidence – primarily from the American context – suggests that this might be the product of a stronger presence of place-based community rootedness, meaning a particular combination of social capital and place attachment. Yet research based on quantitative data or which considers the European context is much scarcer. To address this shortcoming, I investigate whether rootedness amplifies the impact of economic decline resulting from international trade competition on far-right electoral success in the 2018 Italian election. To do so, I create a composite indicator of rootedness, after conducting a factor analysis and leveraging a variety of data sources including census and phone directory data. I find that economic decline benefits the far right in municipalities featuring fairly high rootedness levels, while localities with below-average levels are immune to this dynamic. This does not extend to other populist parties. Interestingly, the far right also mobilizes voters that, in the absence of rootedness, would have otherwise acquiesced to economic decay. This study advances scholarly understanding of the relevance of place to cultural cleavage. It also calls for reflection on the social and political responses to regional economic divergence.

What the Future Holds for the “Places that Don’t Matter” and Why It Matters for Politics

The narrative surrounding the geography of far-right support and its economic bases refers to notions (such as loss, anxiety, and threat of decline) that imply a temporal dimension, that is, assessing the evolution of circumstances from the past through the present and the future. While scholars have widely investigated the power of present and past circumstances to shape present electoral outcomes, the same cannot be said about the future and anticipations of it. Based on aggregate- and individual-level electoral data, the present study reveals that “objective” anticipation of decline of the local economy proves to powerfully correlate with far-right support, specifically in the context of the Italian 2022 general election. We forecast unobservable local economic circumstances in 2032 using machine-learning methods applied to observed historical occupational statistics, namely the vacancy-to-unemployment ratio. Our study demonstrates that the far right is especially successful in places where economic opportunities are more modest than the average, places where such opportunities are in decline compared to the present, and places where the future is more uncertain. Surprisingly, most individuals can make a fairly realistic subjective assessment of the future, though the impact on voting choice does somewhat vary depending on the optimism or pessimism of one’s assessment. Finally, prospective assessments are no less accurate than retrospective ones. The present study contributes to scholarly understanding of the geographic and economic bases of far-right support and revisits the potential of pocketbook motivations of voting choice.