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Population Aging and the Rise of Populist Attitudes in Europe

Despina Gavresi (), Andreas Irmen and Anastasia Litina
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Despina Gavresi: DEM, Université du Luxembourg

DEM Discussion Paper Series from Department of Economics at the University of Luxembourg

Abstract: In the light of the rise in populism in Europe, this paper empirically explores the interplay between population aging and populist attitudes. We test this hypothesis by conducting a multilevel analysis of individuals living in European countries over the period 2002-2019. Our measure of population aging is the country’s old-age dependency ratio, thus we focus on population or societal aging as opposed to individual aging. Populist attitudes are derived from individual-level data that provide information about voting for populist parties, political trust and attitudes towards immigration available in nine consecutive rounds of the European Social Survey. Our findings suggest that societal aging is associated with a fall in trust in national and European institutions and a rise in attitudes against immigrants. There are two potential mechanisms driving our results. First, a shift in the median voter age. Older people tend to be more conservative, voting more for right-wing populist parties and this is reflected on the median vote and attitude as well. The second mechanism appeals to the impact that the presence of the “old” group in the society has on the society and the economy as a whole, it is thus more of an “externality” effect. Living in an aging society, young people are aware of the fact that they have to cater for a large share of old people and this gives rise to different incentives and attitudes compared to individuals living in “young” societies

Keywords: Population Aging; Populist Vote; Immigrant Attitudes; Trust. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 J10 P16 Z13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-age, nep-cdm, nep-eec, nep-mac, nep-pol and nep-soc
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:luc:wpaper:23-10

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