Does Health Vulnerability Predict Voting for Right-Wing Populist Parties in Europe?

NM Kavanagh, A Menon, JE Heinze. Does health vulnerability predict voting for right-wing populist parties in Europe? American Political Science Review 115 (3), 1104-1109.


Why do voters in developed democracies support right-wing populist parties? Existing research focuses on economic and cultural vulnerability as driving this phenomenon. We hypothesize that perceptions of personal health vulnerability might have a similar influence on voters. To test this argument, we analyzed all waves of the European Social Survey (2002–2020). Our findings suggest that voters with worse self-reported health were significantly more likely to vote for right-wing populist parties. The relationship persists even after accounting for measures of cultural and economic vulnerability, as well as voters’ satisfaction with both their personal lives and their country’s health system. The influence of health on support for right-wing populist parties appears to be greater than that of income and self-reported economic insecurity, while less than that of gender and attitudes about immigrants. Our findings suggest that policies affecting public health could shape not only health outcomes but also the political landscape.