Residential Constraints and the Political Geography of the Populist Radical Right: Evidence from France
By Pauliina Patana, Harvard Kennedy School
What explains variation in populist radical right (PRR) support within Western democracies? Specifically, why is contemporary PRR support often and increasingly stronger in areas seemingly detached from the effects of globalization, transnationalism, or immigration, the key issues these parties emphasize? This study articulates a theory of residential constraints to deepen understanding of these spatial patterns. I hypothesize that when citizens are residentially constrained—that is, when their means of reacting to local conditions and “voting with their feet” are limited—they are more likely to support PRR parties. To test this claim, I use a multimethod research design and exploit both quantitative and qualitative evidence from France, an important case of long-standing and geographically divided PRR support. I demonstrate that the PRR performs well in areas where locals’ access to services and opportunities is compromised and where opportunities and incentives to relocate are blocked by residential constraints. Residential constraints thus generate a set of relative economic grievances and render them highly salient in localities that may otherwise appear unaffected by more objective hardships and structural decay.