Nils D. Steiner, Matthias Mader, Harald Schoen
Subjective losers of globalization

European Journal of Political Research, 2024: 63, issue 1, pp. 326-347
ISSN: 1475-6765 (online)

Recent political changes in established democracies have led to a new cleavage, often described as a juxtaposition of ‘winners’ and ‘losers of globalization’. Despite a growing interest in subjective group membership and identity, previous research has not studied whether individuals actually categorize themselves as globalization winners or losers and what effect this has. Based on survey data from Germany, we report evidence of a division between self-categorized globalization winners and losers that is partially but not completely rooted in social structure and associated with attitudes towards globalization-related issues and party choices. We thereby confirm many of the assumptions from prior research – such as that (self-categorized) losers of globalization tend to hold lower levels of education and lean towards the radical right. At the same time, the self-categorizations are not merely transmission belts of socio-structural effects but seem to be politically consequential in their own right. We conclude that the categories of globalization winners and losers have the potential to form part of the identity component of the globalization cleavage and are important for understanding how political entrepreneurs appeal to voters on their side of the new divide.