Monday, October 14, 2019, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
A backlash against the elites has put democratic institutions under pressure on both sides of the Atlantic. So far, explanations for this political extremism have focused on the economic and cultural insecurity of voters. We offer an alternative which is rooted in interregional inequality and redistribution. When government is organised across multiple levels, lower-level jurisdictions (regions) are affected by policies introduced by a higher(federal) level. Ranging from transfer schemes to market regulation or migration targets,such higher-level policies often mean some regions are gaining whilst others lose out. We argue that voters have an incentive to stack this kind of redistribution in their favour,using the regional ties of politicians as a strategic link. In our model, both in winning and losing regions, the median voter elects federal representatives that are extremely protective of their own regions interests, to stake out a stronger bargaining position at the higher level. The wider interregional inequality becomes, consequently, the more protectionist the vote. Our empirical analysis and online survey confirm these predictions, by comparing the protectionism/nationalism of representatives elected to the EU Parliament with that of representatives elected to national Parliaments.