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Economic Inequality, "Status" Threat, and Support for Exclusionary Rhetoric Among Right-Wing Populists in the United States and Europe

West, Emily (2020) Economic Inequality, "Status" Threat, and Support for Exclusionary Rhetoric Among Right-Wing Populists in the United States and Europe. In: Pitt Momentum Fund 2020, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa. (Unpublished)


The recent surge in success of ‘populist’ candidates throughout Western democracies seems to be predicated on their commitment to ethno-nationalist rhetoric. This project advances a parsimonious and integrated theory that explains the psychological mechanisms driving support for such exclusionary rhetoric. Specifically, drawing on scholarship from across various fields of social science, the theory hypothesizes that economic inequality, and resulting feelings of relative deprivation, increase attachments to social identities, such as white, male, protestant identities in the United States, and white, male, ancestral-native identities in Western European countries. This heightened group attachment then makes individuals from these historically dominant groups more susceptible to threats to the status of these groups in society. In turn, increased attachment to privileged identities and status threats lead to a ramping up of a particular conceptualization of “national” identity, one that maintains the privileged status of historically privileged groups (i.e. white, male, protestants in the US, and ancestral natives in Western Europe). The ramping up of this “exclusionary national” identity thus explains the successful use of ethno-nationalist rhetoric among ‘populist’ candidates throughout Western democracies. This study will test hypotheses resulting from this theory in a series of experiments. The Seeding Funds would be used to pilot these experiments both online and in the field. The results from these online pilot experiments will then be used in a "Rapid" NSF proposal, which will request further funding to test the same hypotheses in a combination of both online experiments using nationally representative samples, as well as field experiments in the Pittsburgh area, London surrounding areas, and in towns in the South of Germany. This theory and all resulting empirical evidence will result in 2-3 papers, but the larger goal is to incorporate the research into a book manuscript.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
West, Emilyeawest@pitt.edueawest
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Office of Sponsored Research > Pitt Momentum Fund
Date: 2020
Event Title: Pitt Momentum Fund 2020
Event Type: Other
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.18117/yg8t-s115
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
Refereed: No
Other ID: 3213
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2020 17:06
Last Modified: 17 Feb 2023 19:23


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