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ScholarOne - Compensation, Austerity, and Populism: Social Spending and Voting in 17 Western European Countries
  • Chase Foster,
  • Jeffry Frieden
Chase Foster
Brown University

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Jeffry Frieden
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Abstract

There has been a dramatic rise in voting for populist parties in Europe over the past thirty years. We assess the role of government labor market policy in dampening or provoking populist sentiment. Drawing from a panel of 189 elections from 1990 to 2017 and pooled cross-sectional data from eight waves of the European Social Survey, we find evidence that populist parties fared worse where countries spent more on social support, especially for labor market programs that provide income to workers experiencing unemployment (“passive labor market” policies). We also find that cuts to these programs are strongly associated with increased support for populist parties. The effect was stronger among those individuals who had experienced unemployment and among those facing adverse economic circumstances. This suggests that the welfare and labor-market reforms of the 1990s and early 2000s may have alienated vulnerable segments of the population and driven them toward populist parties.
19 May 2023Submitted to Advance
18 Mar 2024Published in Advance