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Populist Right Voting in a Place Not Left Behind: The Case of Vienna, Austria

Authors: Jurgen Essletzbichler*, Vienna University of Economics and Business
Topics: Political Geography, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Populism, Radical right voting, insecurity, social housing, Austria
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There is a growing consensus in the literature that “places left behind” by globalization are more likely to vote for populist agendas and candidates. Along newly emerging cultural and/or economic cleavages, rural and old industrial areas are expected to vote for populists while metropolitan centers are supposed to vote for traditional center parties. While there are spatial clusters of populist right voting in Austria, the country does not fit those explanations well. In this paper, we attempt to rectify this shortcoming. First, we demonstrate that urban-rural differences in populist right voting are not statistically significant. Second, using 2017 national electoral data for 1400 electoral districts in Vienna, we highlight clusters of high populist right voting in Vienna that are not easily explained by cultural and economic cleavage variables. Third, we examine the impact of EU membership on a particular benefit-in-kind, social housing, and examine whether high social housing content in an electoral district results in higher voting shares for the populist right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). Affirmation would suggest that the opening of the social housing market to foreigners under EU rule, increases the (imagined) fear of losing benefits to foreigners among the, primarily, Austrian social housing residents although tenants cannot be removed once access to social housing has been granted. This would support arguments suggesting that populist right parties cater not to the excluded, the unemployed, poor and minorities, but to those that still have jobs, accommodation or social benefits but feel threatened to lose those benefits to outsiders.

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