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In recent years the increased electoral relevance of populist anti-establishment parties in several European democracies has steered scholar attention to these “new” parties’ positions on redistribution, the functioning of the economy and, last but not least, the welfare state. Nonetheless, with the exception of few recent studies on Radical Right parties, the programmatic options and welfare preferences of diverse “populist” right parties have remained largely under-researched.
This paper therefore analyses how the radical right parties' discourse on the welfare state developed over time in five Western countries: Germany, France, Italy, the UK, and the US. The analysis is based on the content of political manifestos in national elections since the 1990s and it looks at all the main social policy fields - from pensions, to health care and family policies.
The goal of the paper is to identify how much these parties differ from one another in relation to their approach to welfare state issues and whether there is a policy field effect. In particular, the paper tries to answer the following questions: What are the welfare preferences of new populist right parties? Do welfare state settings – i.e. universalistic vs occupational vs means-tested – and/or policy fields – health care, pensions, unemployment, education and anti-poverty fields - contribute shaping these parties’ welfare preferences?