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Why do workers vote radical right?: Workplace experiences and the new class cleavage

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Why are working-class individuals over-represented among supporters of radical right populist (RRP) parties? Why does the radical right seem especially popular with skilled manual workers, and not service workers or routine operatives? This study addresses these questions by exploring the effects of occupational characteristics on radical right support. By drawing on detailed occupational data from the O*NET database and linking it to European Social Survey responses, this study tests whether workplace autonomy and occupational task content are linked to RRP support, and whether these links are mediated through immigration attitudes and authoritarian values. Both non-routine interpersonal and routine manual work are found to be negatively associated with RRP support, but only for low-skilled workers. Both types of work appear to influence workers' immigration attitudes, possibly by requiring increased contact with immigrants, whether as clients and customers or as coworkers. By contrast, non-routine physical work is strongly positively associated with radical right support. This effect is only weakly mediated by attitudinal variables and has similar magnitude to other established predictors of RRP support. These findings strongly suggest that occupational task content, and the types of social interactions and norms which these tasks require, influence political preferences and help explain why individuals in certain occupations are more likely to support the radical right.
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