The Wind of Populism: Voter Turnout and Political Distance

Becchetti LeonardoConzo Gianluigi
CEIS Research Paper
Based on the horizontal differentiation literature we model decline in voter turnout as a rational choice when the distance between the voter and the closest party on the hyperplane of political preferences is regarded as too high by the voter. To analyse political preferences we consider five crucial segments going beyond the traditional left-right scale simplification (climate, migration, security, civil rights and income distribution). Our empirical findings on 32 countries in the last eight waves of the European Social Survey (ESS) support our research hypothesis: respondents who do not feel close to any party (57 percent of the sample) are more likely to abstain (23 percent of the sample). Results are confirmed when we use the Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES) classification of political party positions to calculate distance. We as well show that those who declare to feel distant from political parties are significantly less concerned with climate and civil rights, while significantly more with income distribution, migration threat and security, as well as having lower education and belonging to lower income deciles. We conclude by arguing that the success of populist parties in the last decade is probably related to their higher capacity to identify characteristics of non voters and moving toward their preferences.

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Number: 569
Keywords: turnout, hotelling differentiation, environment, civil rights
Volume: 21
Issue: 7
Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Revision Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2023