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Ostracised because of their politics?
April 25 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Speakers: Sofia Ammassari (Griffith University) and Luca Versteegen (University of Gothenburg)
While populist parties have moved towards the political mainstream, it still may be unpopular to be populist. In other words, it may not be socially acceptable to vote for populist parties or even be a member of them. However, we lack systematic evidence to understand the extent to which these individuals are stigmatised and excluded from society. Today’s speakers present evidence on the social interactions voters and members of populist parties face.
Sofia Ammassari (Griffith University) — Some suffer more than others: A study of stigma among populist radical right party members
Regardless of whether populist radical right (PRR) parties are considered acceptable coalition partners or are subject to a cordon sanitaire, PRR grassroots members may still face stigmatisation because of their engagement. It is also likely that different people will be more or less susceptible to the stigma ascribed to their PRR membership. To investigate this, I ask: Which PRR party members are more likely to feel stigmatised? I address this question by drawing on an original nationwide membership survey of over 7,000 grassroots members of the PRR Sweden Democrats (SD), as well as online interviews with 30 of them in the counties of Skåne and Stockholm. The results show that women, public employees and higher educated SD party members are more likely to feel stigmatised. Furthermore, those who have been members for a longer time, had family or friends in the party when joining, and live in counties where the SD is popular, are less worried about revealing they are members of the SD. As stigmatisation can have detrimental effects on the development of PRR party organisations, including the recruitment and retainment of a membership base, understanding how stigmatisation works, and who is more susceptible to it, can provide unique insights into the growth of the PRR party family.
Luca Versteegen (University of Gothenburg) — Exclusion at the Center: A Theory of Populist Radical Right Voters’ Position in Society
Where can Populist Radical Right (PRR) voters be situated in society? While some research describes them as marginalized members of society, other evidence suggests they are rather central: PRR parties receive support from a broad demographic spectrum and particularly from historical majorities like Whites and men, who understand themselves as “average” members of society.
In this paper, I argue that the puzzle of marginalized vs. central PRR voters is misleading as it stems from a one-dimensional understanding of inclusion. Instead, PRR voters may not feel included in society despite their subgroups’ centrality. Specifically, I apply Optimal Distinctiveness Theory, which suggests that individuals only feel included in society if they a.) experience belonging to the larger group while b.) simultaneously feeling able to express subgroups characteristics. Given the recent promotion of minorities, I contend that PRR voters feel excluded despite firmly belonging to society because they feel unseen or unappreciated with their subgroups.
I showcase my argument by presenting evidence from 27 semi-structured interviews with German PRR voters conducted before the 2021 federal election. The study explores the general suitability of the theoretical framework. I close by raising practical implications and avenues for quantitative tests of the theory.
Zoom link – [NO REGISTRATION REQUIRED]