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      Motivational and Affective Drivers of Right-Wing Populism Support: Insights From an Austrian Presidential Election

      * , a , , b , b
      Social Psychological Bulletin
      political disenchantment, right-wing populism, populist support, psychological needs, anger, anxiety

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          Research has identified political disenchantment as an important driver for the recent spread of right-wing populism. The cultural backlash approach explains this relationship as a counter response to progressive socio-political developments in Western societies. Drawing on previous work, the present research examines motivational and affective factors underlying the support of right-wing populist parties. We hypothesize that a perceived alienation from the symbolic architecture of a society may decrease levels of psychological need satisfaction, which may catalyze into anxiety and anger. As the “political system” represents an important reflective surface for the socio-political status quo, we expected lower levels of need satisfaction and its resulting affective consequences to help explain the relationship between political disenchantment and right-wing populist support. We tested these tenets based on data from the 2016 Austrian presidential election (n = 626). The results of a structural equation model corroborated our predictions with some exceptions. Data indicated a negative relationship between political disenchantment and need satisfaction. Moreover, decreased need satisfaction was associated with increased self-reported anxiety and anger. Political disenchantment indirectly predicted support for a right-wing populist presidential candidate through decreased need satisfaction and anger, thus corroborating the role of anger as an important driver underlying right-wing populism support. Counterintuitively, the data indicated a negative relationship between anxiety and right-wing support. We discuss theoretical and practical implications, as well as limitations stemming from sample characteristics and the employed cross-sectional design.


          • A structural equation model examines mechanism underlying the relationship between political disenchantment and right-wing populist support.

          • Data indicate a negative relationship between political disenchantment and psychological need satisfaction.

          • Dissatisfied needs relate to increased anger and anxiety.

          • Anger seems to be an important driver of right-wing populist support.

          • Anger might be fueled by “blame” narratives.

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          Most cited references39

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          Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives

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            A Decade of System Justification Theory: Accumulated Evidence of Conscious and Unconscious Bolstering of the Status Quo

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              Anger is an approach-related affect: evidence and implications.

              The authors review a range of evidence concerning the motivational underpinnings of anger as an affect, with particular reference to the relationship between anger and anxiety or fear. The evidence supports the view that anger relates to an appetitive or approach motivational system, whereas anxiety relates to an aversive or avoidance motivational system. This evidence appears to have 2 implications. One implication concerns the nature of anterior cortical asymmetry effects. The evidence suggests that such asymmetry reflects direction of motivational engagement (approach vs. withdrawal) rather than affective valence. The other implication concerns the idea that affects form a purely positive dimension and a purely negative dimension, which reflect the operation of appetitive and aversive motivational systems, respectively. The evidence reviewed does not support that view. The evidence is, however, consistent with a discrete-emotions view (which does not rely on dimensionality) and with an alternative dimensional approach. (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Soc Psychol Bull
                Social Psychological Bulletin
                Soc. Psychol. Bull.
                30 October 2020
                : 15
                : 3
                : e2875
                [a ]LAPSCO (CNRS UMR 6014), Université Clermont Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France
                [b ]Department of Psychology, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria
                [3]Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland
                Author notes
                [* ]Université Clermont Auvergne, LAPSCO (CNRS UMR 6014), 34, avenue Carnot, 63037 Clermont-Ferrand, France. Adrian.Luders@ 123456uca.fr

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 27 February 2020
                : 22 July 2020
                Self URI (journal-page): https://journals.psychopen.eu/
                Short Research Report

                anxiety,political disenchantment,right-wing populism,populist support,psychological needs,anger


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