Welfare Chauvinism and Neoliberal Realignment: Rethinking the Radical-Right

Abstract

Radical-right parties have garnered newfound attention as they have reached striking distance of government in a growing number of European countries. Most of the attention has been on these parties’ opposition to immigration, but this neglects the importance of economic issues in their platform. Much has been made of the working-class support for radical-right parties, but it has too often been taken for granted that these voters are deciding purely on the immigration issue. Welfare chauvinism is an important part of the radical-right’s appeal. Where the center-left accepted neoliberalism, a political opportunity was created for the radical-right to mobilize working class voters on welfare state policies. I show using data from their party manifestos and statements that the radical-right has devoted growing attention to expanding the welfare state and has shied away from support for retrenchment. I utilize a multinomial logistic model predicting support for radical-right parties across 10 western European countries. The results notably show that opposition to economic inequality and euroscepticism are statistically significant predictors of support for the radical-right. I find that the success of the radical-right in garnering the support of the working-class can be partially attributed to its support for its economic policies regarding the welfare state and the European Union.

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