Housing and populism

Исследователи Дэвид Адлер и Бен Анселл нашли взаимосвязь между рынком недвижимости и успехом популистов на выборах. Ученые утверждают, что в районах с растущими ценами на жилье предложения популистов становятся менее привлекательными для избирателей. А вот в случае стагнации цен, люди больше вдохновляются популистскими лозунгами. Тезис в статье раскрывается на примере Брексита и французских выборов 2017 года

Taylor&Francis Online

Over the course of the last half-decade, populism has moved from the fringe of West European politics to its centre stage. Populist parties vary in their policy agendas but they broadly share a distaste for existing political elites and institutions and claim to support the ‘common person’ against both the ‘establishment’ and outsider groups, oftentimes immigrants and other minorities (Mudde 2007). In some countries, such as Italy, populist parties now capture a plurality of voter support. In others, such as the United Kingdom, the populist vote share remains marginal, but the tail wags the dog: establishment parties are adopting populist rhetoric and responding to the policy priorities of this vocal minority (Ford and Goodwin 2014). The rise of the populists has not been sudden: establishment parties have steadily lost ground to populist challengers as Western Europe’s electoral systems have unfrozen (Mudde 2001; Mény and Surel 2002). But the political earthquakes of Donald Trump’s election in the United States and Britain’s decision to exit the European Union have put these trends in sharp relief. Indeed, Western Europe is not alone: developed democracies in general are becoming more polarised (Ezrow et al. 2014), more volatile (Hernández and Kriesi 2016), and more favourable to populist candidates (Zaslove 2008). It is an earthquake felt around the world.

The appearance of populist parties on the main stage has sparked a major debate about the drivers of populist appeal. One strand of this literature examines economic factors that contribute to workers’ sense of exclusion in the post-industrial economy, highlighting the importance of trade (Colantone and Stanig 2018; Dorn et al. 2016; Swank and Betz 2003), education (Algan et al. 2017; Guiso et al. 2017), and employment insecurity (Ford and Goodwin 2014; Vlandas and Halikiopoulou 2018) in pushing voters toward populist alternatives. Another strand of this literature argues that populism is the product of a ‘backlash’ by voters who feel that their traditional values have been left behind in post-materialist cosmopolitan culture (Inglehart and Norris 2017; Kaufmann 2016). Across both, there is broad agreement that the populist revolt represents the ‘return of the repressed’ (Streeck 2017), who felt pushed towards the periphery of the economic, cultural and political imagination (Cramer 2016; Gest 2016; Hochschild 2016).

However, existing research has completely overlooked the single most important determinant of people’s everyday welfare, the largest asset on their household balance sheets, and the driver of massive macroeconomic instability over the last two decades: housing. Like trade and technological change, the housing market has had a profound impact on the distribution of winners and losers across advanced capitalist economies. Some homeowners, based in booming global cities, have profited handsomely from rapid house price inflation; others, based in regions of economic decline, have weathered a housing crash that sent them into negative equity, foreclosure, and increased risk of depression (McLaughlin et al. 2012). Indeed, while there is broad recognition that the housing market played an important role in the financial crisis (Rajan 2010), and broad recognition that the financial crisis has played an important role in the political economy of populism (Rodrik 2017), there is not a single study to our knowledge that has examined the impact of housing market dynamics on populist vote share. This article aims to fill that gap in the literature.

We examine two recent elections with a salient populist dimension: Britain’s 2016 referendum on membership to the European Union and France’s Presidential Election in 2017. Across both, we show that the housing market is closely tied to populist electoral outcomes: areas that have gained from house price inflation are far less likely to vote for populist causes or parties than areas that have been excluded from those gains. We run our analyses at both the local and the individual levels, controlling for a range of key variables in the populism literature, including age, income, gender, and education. We show that housing has a strong effect on populist support independent of these socio-economic and demographic factors.

Our findings make contributions to both the housing literature and the populism literature. Several studies have explored the link between house prices and voters’ preferences over party choice (Verberg 2000) and so-called ‘first-dimension’ (material) issues like trade (Scheve and Slaughter 2001) and welfare expenditures (Ansell 2014). Yet very little attention has been paid to how housing markets affect preferences along the ‘second dimension’ (group-based) of politics, which dominates new populist movements and, through them, much of contemporary West European politics (Jagers and Walgrave 2007). We develop a novel theory of housing and its impact on voters’ sense of exclusion from the economic and cultural changes over the last quarter-century.

In doing so, we help to bridge the economic and cultural explanations of populist appeal. Several recent studies attempt a horserace between these explanations, evaluating the relative impact of indicators like household income and attitudes toward immigration (Inglehart and Norris 2017; Rodrik 2017). On the basis of these measurements, some scholars have concluded that the ‘economic inequality’ perspective is largely invalid (Inglehart and Norris 2017). Our findings suggest that economic inequality is an indispensable explanation of the populist vote, but we reframe our understanding of inequality in geographical terms. The housing market structures the political map by locking people into ‒ or out of ‒ different climates of fortune: in some areas, a housing boom inspires optimism; in others, a housing bust fosters a sense of exclusion ‒ not only from the gains of their neighbours, but also from the areas where housing is no longer affordable to them. It is in these latter areas, we show, that the culture of resentment thrives (Cramer 2016), clearing the way for populist candidates. Housing has clear material winners and losers, but its geographic fixity also means that houses are embedded in local communities, and voters’ sense of self-understanding and group identity flows from these local conditions. Diverging fortunes in the housing market can activate both sets of concerns and thereby drive voters’ satisfaction with the political status quo.

In the next section, we develop a theory of the relationship between the housing market and local populist appeal. In the third section, we describe the methods that we employ to examine this relationship. In the fourth and fifth sections, we examine the data from Britain’s referendum on EU membership and the French presidential election of 2017, conducting analyses of both local electoral outcomes and individual vote choice. The sixth section concludes by drawing out broader lessons.

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