A new study has claimed that supporters of populist and far-right parties, such as Finland First, are more likely to be bitter and resentful than supporters of mainstream parties.


Bitter people who feel that they have not received what they deserve in life worry more about immigration, according to a forthcoming study from the European Journal of Political Economy. “This relationship holds for respondents with different levels of skills, job security, concerns about crime, the general economic situation, or their own economic situation,” says Panu Poutvaara, Director of the ifo Center for International Institutional Comparisons and Migration Research.

Titled Bitterness in life and attitudes towards immigration, the study is carried out by Poutvaara and Max Steinhardt from Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg. Their findings show that bitterness has important political implications and supporters of far-right and populist parties are, on average, far more bitter than mainstream party supporters. Individuals without clear party preferences are seen as somewhat more bitter than those who support mainstream parties, but less so than those supporting far-right and populist parties. “Those who do not feel represented by any established party are bitterer and more likely to switch to supporting far-right and populist parties,” suggests Poutvaara.

The study claims that fears about immigration have played a major role in the rise of extremist parties across Europe, the Brexit referendum and Trump’s presidential campaign. “Our paper addresses the extent to which bitterness in life is an important driver of negative attitudes towards immigration,” the study says. It continues: “According to psychologists, bitterness can be viewed as a mixture of anger and hopelessness. Bitter people feel that they have been let down by other people or by fate, but they also want to fight back, despite feeling helpless.”

Poutvaara and Steinhardt come to the conclusion that the link between bitterness and worries about immigration is down to “envious preferences.” People who have such feelings are described in the study as seeing the opportunities and successes of others as something that possibly exacerbates their own sense of personal failure. The researchers believe that these feelings are likely to lead to growing worries about immigration, which would increase the possibility of a political backlash against open societies. According to the study, this kind of scenario should be combated by new policies that try to prevent bitterness from developing and growing.

Dan Anderson – HT
Photo: Lehtikuva