“Aspiration versus Apprehension: Economic Opportunities and Electoral Preferences” (with Silja Häusermann and Thomas Kurer)

Recent studies take increasingly refined views of how socio-economic conditions influence political behavior, including support for radical parties. We add to this literature by exploring how voters’ prospective evaluations of economic opportunities relate to political preferences. Using original survey data from eight West European countries, we show that positive economic prospects increase support for mainstream parties and dampen support for radical parties on all levels of material well-being. Our results hence support the idea that “aspirational voters” with positive evaluations of opportunities (for themselves or their children) represent an important stabilizing force in advanced democratic capitalism. However, we also find support for the flipside of this argument, i.e. “apprehensive voters”: a lack of perceived opportunities can push even economically secure voters to support radical parties (especially the radical right). To assess the implications of these findings, we study the characteristics and size of these voter groups across different countries.