Working paper
Open access

Falling Behind Whom? Economic Geographies of Right-Wing Populism in Europe

Number of pages34 p.
First online date2023-03-24

Europe has seen a rise and territorial polarization in the electoral success of right-wing populist

parties (RWPPs). Existing studies show that right-wing populism appeals to a broad spectrum

of people in communities that have fallen behind in material terms. This paper adds to this debate

by investigating the social comparisons behind the discontent that motivates right-wing

populist voters. We argue that the structure of territorial inequalities influences the benchmarks

used by people who perceive themselves as falling behind. Using panel data regressions

on a novel dataset on subnational election results in all EU states from 1990-2018, we find a

strong association between an increase in the distance to the richest region of the country and

RWPP support. However, we find that this association only holds for richer member states. In

poorer EU states, changes in the distance to average GDP per capita of the rich member states

turn out to be a significant predictor of regional support for RWPPs. Taken together, these findings

suggest that RWPPs in poorer member states mobilize resentment against people in the

EU core, while RWPPs in richer member states mobilize resentment against people in economically

dynamic areas.

  • European Commission - Unequal Democracies [741538]
Citation (ISO format)
SHRAFF, Dominik, PONTUSSON, Harry Jonas. Falling Behind Whom? Economic Geographies of Right-Wing Populism in Europe. 2023
Main files (1)
Working paper
  • PID : unige:167971

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