voting

“Cross-segmental” politicians encourage moderation and cooperation

Financial and job insecurity make European voters more likely to support radical politicians, a new study warns.

Experts have found a link between money and work precarity and having a populist political outlook.

Although the association between having a populist outlook and insecurity was consistently positive in all ten nations examined, its strength varied across countries and types of parties. In 8 out of 10 cases, this association translated into a link between insecurity and voting for populist parties.

The study was conducted by the researchers from the project “Populism’s Roots: Economic and Cultural Explanations in Democracies of Europe” and was led by Andrei Zhirnov from the University of Exeter, Lorenza Antonucci from the University of Birmingham, Jan Philipp Thomeczek and Norbert Kersting from the University of Münster, Laszlo Horvath from Birkbeck, University of London, Carlo D’Ippoliti and Christian Mongeau from Sapienza University of Rome, and André Krouwel from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Dr Zhirnov said: “Financial and work-related precarity is clearly linked with populist attitudes and populist voting. We cannot establish causality with our data however we can see that voters in precarious conditions are more likely to have a negative outlook on the elites and hold a populist worldview. In most cases, this association translates into the tendency of such voters to vote for populist parties, except for countries where populists are leading the government.”

Researchers used survey data produced by a Dutch survey company Kieskompas in 2018. It includes over 75,000 responses in total and over 60,000 complete responses in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain, and Sweden. Researchers measured each respondent’s populist outlook: people-centrism, anti-elitism, and the tendency to perceive politics as a conflict between two antagonistic groups, as well as the levels of their financial and work-related precarity.

Researchers also built and estimated models based on the measures of voting behaviour. These show a positive significant association between financial insecurity and the probability of voting for populist parties in all countries except Poland and Hungary. The difference between the first quartile of the distribution of financial insecurity and its third quartile, corresponded to approximately 17–20 percentage point difference in the probability of casting a vote for a populist party in Germany, France, and Sweden. The effect was weaker, albeit still significant, in Austria, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands.