Facing the populists: the effect of populist challengers on mainstream parties’ welfare state positions

Andrea Celico (Universidad de Navarra)


This article investigates the effect of populists' electoral success on European mainstream parties' positions about the size and the inclusiveness of the welfare state. Using party manifestos data and a Regression Discontinuity Design, this article finds that a populist party obtaining representation constitutes a supply-side mechanism inducing an adjustment over mainstream parties' positions, independently from public opinion changes.
After competing with a populist party, mainstream parties shift their positions in favor of a smaller and more exclusionary welfare state. In terms of programmatic distances, mainstream parties tend to converge with the populists on the welfare chauvinism issue, while they diverge on the economic dimension of the welfare state. Results suggest that similar dynamics operate for both right and left-wing parties.

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