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Suryanarayan, Pavithra
Year of Publication: 
Series/Report no.: 
WIDER Working Paper 2017/20
What explains the popularity of right-wing parties amongst the poor? This paper argues that in hierarchical societies with high social-status inequality, poor high-status voters may ally with rich high-status voters if they believe their social-status is under threat. I demonstrate this in the context of the Indian states by exploiting an announcement by the Government of India in 1990 to implement affirmative action for lower castes - an intervention that threatened to weaken the social-status of upper-caste Brahmans. Using unique data from the 1931 census, this paper shows that areas where Brahmans were more dominant in the 1930s experienced a higher surge in rightwing voting after this announcement than other areas. Using survey data, I find that both wealthy and poor Brahmans voted for the right-wing where Brahmans were dominant in 1931. The paper shows how concerns about social-status may make the poor open to appeals by anti-redistribution parties.
ethnic voting
Indian politics
right-wing voting
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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