The politics of social status: economic and cultural roots of the populist right

Noam Gidron, Peter A. Hall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

343 Scopus citations


This paper explores the factors that have recently increased support for candidates and causes of the populist right across the developed democracies, especially among a core group of working-class men. In the context of debates about whether the key causal factors are economic or cultural, we contend that an effective analysis must rest on understanding how economic and cultural developments interact to generate support for populism. We suggest that one way to do so is to see status anxiety as a proximate factor inducing support for populism, and economic and cultural developments as factors that combine to precipitate such anxiety. Using cross-national survey data from 20 developed democracies, we assess the viability of this approach. We show that lower levels of subjective social status are associated with support for right populist parties, identify a set of economic and cultural developments likely to have depressed the social status of men without a college education, and show that the relative social status of those men has declined since 1987 in many of the developed democracies. We conclude that status effects provide one pathway through which economic and cultural developments may combine to increase support for the populist right.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)S57-S84
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© London School of Economics and Political Science 2017


  • Populist vote
  • social status
  • working class


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