Policy Study

14/05/2024

Prospects for a new socialist political participation

In recent years, European citizens have witnessed how inequality, particularly socio-economic inequality, together with the vote share that radical right populist parties have secured in elections, has increased. These parties now govern some countries, such as Italy and Hungary, and have gained a significant number of seats in others, such as Spain. That is why the present policy study aims to examine the nexus between inequality and populism, with a particular focus on the dialectics between social-democratic and radical right populist parties, as well as the territorial differences of inequality.

In fact, with respect to our research question, “how does inequality affect political participation?”, we argue that the rise of populism is not only linked to economic trends but also to other constitutional changes and institutional settings characterising European countries. We understand the current disenchantment upon which populist parties have achieved their result, as a consequence not only of the democratic dynamics but also of economic inequalities. Similarly, we acknowledge that the rise of populism also responds to the party fragmentation that has recently taken place in many European states. However, this lies beyond the scope of our research. Hence, our main focus is on economic inequality as the explanatory variable for political participation. This way, analysis of the economic realm to generate policy recommendations is justified. The research fills the gap in the literature by combining a sound theoretical foundation, a clear applied analysis, and articulated policy recommendations deriving from these. The main goal is, thus, applied. 

To support the argument of the policy brief, our work is split into the following sections. The first deals with the methodology that is used in the writing. Combining a qualitative analysis of the case studies and a quantitative analysis of the data that concerns them, the study sheds light on the research question. Then three countries are presented as case studies. The quantitative analysis of the data is put forward, and finally, a set of policy recommendations, together with an open call for further research on the link between rising inequalities and populist parties‘ political consensus and participation, are proposed.

This policy study was written as part of the FEPS Young Academic’s Network.

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Karl Renner Institut
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