Working Paper

Paying Off Populism: How Regional Policies Affect Voting Behavior


  • Gold
  • R.
  • Lehr
  • J.
Publication Date

This paper shows that regional policies can decrease populist support. We focus on the “development objective” (Objective-1) of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), meant to support lagging-behind regions. For causal inference, we exploit three sources of quasi-exogenous variation in a Regression-Discontinuity-Design (RDD), a Difference-in- Differences framework (DiD), and with matching techniques. Using NUTS3-level panel data on the outcomes of elections to the EU parliament, observed over the period 1999-2019, we consistently find that Objective-1 transfers reduces the vote share of right-fringe parties by about 2.5 pp. Left-fringe party support is not affected. Complementary analyses of individual-level survey data from the Eurobarometer show that the European Regional Policy increases trust in democratic institutions and decreases discontent with the EU.

Kiel Institute Expert


JEL Classification
D72, H54, R11, R58

Key Words

  • Populism
  • Regional Policies
  • European Integration
  • Regression Discontinuity Design