‘Welfare Chauvinism’ vs. ‘Race to the Bottom’: Immigration and Electoral Support for Populist Right in Industrial Democracies, 1990-2009
48 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 1, 2017
Some propose that the rise of right-wing populism in many industrial democracies is due to economic insecurities stemming from globalization — the so-called “race to the bottom” argument. They suggest that greater social protection can cushion society from communal disharmony. Others suggest that the anti-immigrant backlash is driven by “welfare chauvinism” where people already enjoying high levels of social welfare are likely to see immigrants as a threat to the system and that traditional xenophobia and racism are compounded by the view that immigrants are interlopers that free-ride on welfare. We test these competing propositions using panel data for 27 OECD countries between 1990 and 2009 (20 years). We find that the positive effect of immigration on support for right-wing populism is not direct but conditional upon higher degrees of social welfare, which supports propositions about “welfare chauvinism.” Support for right-wing parties increase when the degree of economic freedom is low and the degree of social protection is high. The results clearly fail to support propositions about the “race to the bottom” but support liberal arguments about the distorting effects of high welfare on communal harmony. Our results are robust to a host of alternative data, sample size and estimation techniques.
Keywords: Immigration, Welfare State, Race to the Bottom, Economic Freedom and Far-Right Parties
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation