Sheltering Populists? House Prices and the Support for Populist Parties

Speaker: Ben Ansell

Nuffield College

(joint work with Frederik Hjorth, Jacob Nyrup, Martin Vinæs Larsen).  

Populist parties, particularly from the right of the political spectrum, have sharply increased their electoral support in recent years, creating great media and scholarly interest. Existing work examining the economic underpinnings of populist support has focused on labor market shocks and the presence or absence of government compensation. In this paper we suggest that the housing market may have been as important as the labor market in defining who switched to populist voting and where they were located. We build on existing work that connects house prices to ‘first dimension poltics’ of redistribution and classic left-right political identification to argue that house prices might also shape preferences on the ‘second dimension’ of politics: support for populist nationalism versus liberal cosmopolitanism. Using both novel precinct- and individual-level data from Denmark, we show that negative shocks to house prices over the election cycle are strongly associated with shifts to support for the Danish People’s Party, a pattern that has amplified over recent elections. We then turn to corroborate this relationship using local housing data in Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

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