Why do voters in contexts of economic decline increasingly come to support far-right nationalist parties in some places but not in others? We develop a theoretical argument regarding the role of social interconnections in shaping responses to economic insecurity and suggest that social capital can mitigate the effects of adverse economic shocks on cultural backlash. We test our theory by combining individual-level data on voting behavior from the European Social Survey (waves 1–9) with data on economic conditions and memberships in civic organizations at the level of European regions. Our findings reveal that while economic decline strengthens support for far-right nationalist parties where levels of social capital are low, this effect is reversed in areas with high levels of social capital. Results remain robust when we replicate our findings using a proxy for social capital less susceptible to endogeneity: the regional share of non-egalitarian historical family types. Our findings contribute by advancing our understanding of the conditions under which economic decline fails to prompt cultural backlash.
Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 3, Issue 1 Special Issue - The Political Economy of Populism, Part II
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