Ground Report | New Delhi: What makes right-wing parties; What makes right-wing parties; The victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party in India in 2019 was made possible by the votes of a substantial number of working-class and poor voters. Right-wing parties’ support of the poor is surprising as it shows that voters are choosing parties that work against their economic interests. Then why do poor voters choose right-wing parties?
In many countries, poor people vote for a relatively large number of right-wing parties that oppose redistribution. On the other hand, in many countries, relatively large numbers of non-poor individuals vote for left-wing parties that favor redistribution. So we find that the degree to which voting is polarized by income groups also varies greatly across countries.
Poor religious voters, for example, even if they are in favor of redistribution, may “cross over” and vote for the right against their economic interest if right-wing parties have a more attractive position on issues such as abortion, which are not related to redistribution. Non-poor religious voters do not face this tradeoff because they should prefer a right-wing anti-redistribution party on both dimensions.
Similarly, non-poor secular poor voters may be encouraged to vote in favor of a redistribution party if that party proposes policies of another dimension that appeal to their secular worldview. But poor secular voters do not face this tradeoff as they prefer a Left party based on redistribution and another dimension.
Many of these conservative groups share a belief in “traditional” values – often associated with:
- Religious Belief
- National identity
- protection against immigration
- support for the family unit
Of course, there is also much that divides conservative civil society. While most groups support democracy and operate within mainstream politics, a small number are more disruptive and sometimes even violent – as is the case among groups on the left.
Whatever the difference, research from Carnegie Europe shows that there are a number of countries where conservative civil society has been instrumental in shaping domestic events:
- In Brazil, a broad coalition of conservative groups helped topple President Dilma Rousseff in 2016 amid widespread corruption protests
- Ukraine has seen radical national activists opposed to Russian intervention, while socially conservative groups focused on religious and family values have also increased.
- In Thailand, conservative social movements seen as anti-democratic have helped topple military rule.
- In India, Hindu nationalists have gained influence as supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies, including moves to strip 40 lakh people of citizenship.
- Islamic civil society in Turkey is thriving together with the rule of the Justice and Development Party
- In Poland, a powerful conservative civil society now works closely with the Law and Justice government, which has taken several measures to tighten control over the judiciary.
It is often described as a “civil society” – a group of citizens or an organization with a specific purpose, whether it is saving a school from closure or the overthrow of a regime.
Over the years, civil society has been viewed as liberal: supporting human rights, democratic reform and protecting minorities. Often, it is still these “progressive” causes that attract young activists.
But today, civil society comprises an increasingly diverse mix of people and political goals, all headed in the right direction.