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The European Union and Beyond

The Electoral Behaviour of Insiders and Outsiders

Paul Marx
University of Duisburg-Essen
Paul Marx
University of Duisburg-Essen

The surge of non-standard employment has reignited insider-outsider debates in the political economy literature. Although there is some disagreement concerning the exact nature of the conflict between insiders and outsiders, it seems broadly accepted that non-standard workers are among a growing societal group of outsiders whose interests are marginalised in the political process. So far, these arguments rest on strong assumptions about how labour market status affects individuals’ political preferences. To establish the relevance of labour market divides for party politics and welfare state reforms, it is key to understand how specific labour market experiences affect electoral behaviour. The proposed paper makes a conceptual contribution by revealing several theoretical ambiguities in the insider-outsider literature with regard to non-standard workers’ voting decisions. This concerns the following questions:
1) Is vote choice the right measure of party support to test insider-outsider theories, e.g. vis-à-vis party identification? Are different measures required for different operationalisations of outsider status?
2) Does labour market status matter for vote choice?
3) If yes, which voting model captures the differences between insiders and outsiders?
The article will focus on the third questions. It makes a theoretical contribution by arguing that the predominant spatial logic may not capture the most important differences between insiders and outsiders. The proposed paper develops a competing argument stating that difference in risk-exposure between insiders and outsiders leads to difference in issue salience and the weight given to policy competence. Accordingly, the vote of non-standard workers should be more volatile and more responsive to economic fluctuations. The argument is tested using comparative election data. Finally, the paper will discuss implications for welfare state reforms.
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