In_equality Colloquium: "The Politics of Discontent: Historical Turnout Decline and the Rise of Populism in Europe?"

Tuesday, 21. May 2024
11:45 - 13:15

Y213 and Online

Cluster of Excellence "The Politics of Inequality"

Pablo Beramendi

This event is part of an event series „In_equality Colloquium“.

We explore the origins of the rise of populism in Europe by investigating how historical turnout decline shapes the contemporaneous rise of populist voting. We extend the recent political economy literature that has emphasized the role of economic shocks by adding the role of historical turnout decline as a key political moderator. As such, the main research question is to what extent the contemporaneous rise of populism is jointly explained by the economic and political geography of economic shocks and long-standing political discontent. Empirically, we exploit a novel dataset of historical turnout registers across European regions from the 1950s onwards. We reconstruct historical turnout levels at the NUTS-2 region level by aggregating turnout data from the district-level to the regional level leveraging the CLEA dataset. Afterwards, we match the historical turnout data with contemporaneous ESS data and other socio-economic covariates at the NUTS-2 level. We estimate both individual and aggregate regional-level models across European regions and show that the rise of populism is explained by the interaction of historical turnout declines and contemporaneous economic shocks –proxied by unemployment and inequality at the regional level. In order to avoid endogeneity issues, we also employ the China imports shock as an exogenous measure for economic shocks at the regional level. Finally, we investigate further the historical turnout mechanism and show that turnout declines are associated with decreasing electoral shares for the mainstream left parties – suggesting a two-step mechanism in which populism is the result of historical political disaffection followed by economic shocks.

The paper is co-authored by Francesco Amat 1, Pablo Beramendi 2, Jaume Magre1    

1 University of Barcelona
2 Duke University

Pablo Beramendi is a Professor of Political Science Department at Duke University. He is a political economist with a focus on the causes and consequences of economic inequality, comparative political institutions and the connection between economic and political inequality as a key driver of democratic performance. More specifically, his work revolves around three main areas: economic geography and the politics of redistribution, the comparative study of fiscal capacity and progressivity, and the political economy of participation and representation.

Link for online participation