Precarious Work in Times of the Economic Recession and Voting for Populist Radical Right Parties

Voting Behaviour
Take Sipma
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
Take Sipma
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
Marcel Lubbers
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
Niels Spierings
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen

Increasing economic insecurities would have led to the emergence of a new social class: the precariat (Standing, 2011). The new social class consists of people in insecure economic positions, who have, for instance, temporary jobs and have limited support from the welfare state and trade unions. This new class, according to Standing (2011), differs from traditional (working) classes, whose members are in permanent employment and for whom the welfare state is originally designed.
The increase of people in insecure working conditions can have important implications for voting patterns, and might be partly responsible for the rise of populist radical right (PRR) support in Western Europe (Standing, 2011). Recent empirical studies have shown that people in temporary employment, which is one the most precarious employment relation, are more likely to vote against government parties (Marx, 2015) and in favour of protest parties, like PRRs (Emmenegger, Marx & Scharff, 2015). However, these studies did not theorize and empirically test why people in insecure conditions are more likely to vote for the PRR in specific, whereas it could contribute to our understanding of PRR voting in two ways.
First, previous research has shown that both manual workers and self-employed are more inclined to vote for PRRs. We argue that their socio-economic positions might be more similar than it seems at first sight. Both have an insecure economic position, and like manual workers in temporary employment, also self-employed and small business owners are exempt from many welfare state arrangements and hardly presented by trade unions (Standing, 2011). Second, precariousness might not only explain differences between social classes, but also within. Even though manual workers are more likely to shift to PRRs than most other socio-economic groups, not all manual workers have made this move, as they are still well represented among the electorate of left-wing parties. We therefore study to what extent precarious working conditions explain these apparent differences within the lower socio-economic strata exist.
We combine theoretical frameworks on economic insecurity (insider-outsider theory, Lindbeck & Snower, 2001) and on populist radical right voting. In short, insider-outsider theory assumes that the labour market is divided into those with permanent jobs backed by the welfare state (i.e., insiders) and those with temporary and insecure jobs (i.e., outsiders). Due to their economic insecurity, outsiders are more likely to become dealigned from traditional (left-wing) parties than insiders (Rueda, 2005).
But why would they shift to PRRs? Outsiders may be considered as the actual ‘losers of globalization’, as modernization processes have put them ‘outside’ the labour market and led to increasing economic insecurity. They also perceive higher level of ethnic competition, because migrants are overrepresented in temporary jobs. (Working class) people in temporary employment are then more likely to vote for a PRR than (working class) people in permanent employment. We also test to what extent this effect is influenced by the economic context, e.g. country’s unemployment levels. To test our hypotheses, we make use of seven waves of the European Social Survey from 2002 to 2014.
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