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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Transcending or Radicalizing Left-Right Divides. The Electoral Support for Left-Wing Populist Parties

Comparative Politics
Political Sociology
Electoral Behaviour
Southern Europe
Survey Research
Voting Behaviour
Carolina Plaza Colodro
Universidad de Salamanca
Carolina Plaza Colodro
Universidad de Salamanca
Hugo Marcos-Marne
Universität St Gallen
Iván Llamazares
Universidad de Salamanca


The Great Recession, along with other socio-political processes as the refugees’ crisis, eroded the representative function of mainstream parties and opened a new political space for populist challenger parties (Hobolt & Tilley 2016). The electoral success of a distinctive left-wing populism in Europe - parties who politicize the denationalization process in socio-economic terms and populist directions (Kriesi 2014) - raises new questions that are interesting for our understanding of the current transformations of European party systems (Hooghe and Marks 2017).
The emergence and success of challenger parties after the European Great Recession led academic attention to the study of their voters. A number of studies have focused on understanding the roots of support for populist parties, whose discourse has proved to be particularly successful in many European countries. Although the profile of right-wing populist parties has been under investigation for years, the mere existence of left-wing populist parties (LPP) in Europe was “striking” until recently (Rooduijn & Akkerman 2016), letting their voters understudied. Recent studies show that LPP electoral support is motivated by a combination of political ideology and populist attitudes, being the socioeconomic issue positions the most important for LPP’s voters (Van Hauwaert & Van Kessel 2018).
Our study proposes a further examination of the impact of programmatic elements in line with the theories on the formation of libertarian and inclusive preferences (Kitschelt, 1994, pp. 23-27; Kitschelt and Rehm, 2015) on voting for LPP. Beyond the exploration of the core socio-structural features of LPP’s voters, we offer here an empirical test that takes a broader consideration of ideological elements, adding to economic issues redistribution (greed in Kitschelt and Rehm 2015’s terms), inclusiveness (group) and horizontal and participatory politics (grid) attitudes to assess how they relate to electoral support for LPP. Our hypotheses are examined cross-nationally from two voter surveys conducted in France and Spain, two countries that can be considered as representative of the set of Southern European countries in which successful LPPs are present.
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