University of Duisburg-Essen

Institute for Socio-Economics

The political behaviour of temporary workers

Research project funded by the Carlsberg Foundation (150,000 EUR) from January 2013 to December 2014



Do workers on temporary contracts differ in their political preferences from workers on permanent contracts? In many European countries temporary work has been deregulated over the past decades and now around 14 % of the employees in the EU work on contracts with a limited duration. For affected workers, this implies the constant risk of job loss and recurrent spells of unemployment may be the consequence. At the same time political protests, the emergence of populist parties and other signs of disenchantment with mainstream politics have raised public concerns about the political integration of citizens with weak labour market attachments, particularly among the young. The project addresses these concerns by studying the political integration of temporary workers. Research across academic disciplines has documented detrimental effects of temporary employment on a range of socio-economic and psychological outcomes, but we still know strikingly little about its effects on political attitudes and behaviour.


The project combines insights from psychology, political behaviour and labour market research in innovative ways to enhance our knowledge about the political effects of temporary work. The main research questions are: do temporary workers blame political parties for their perceived disadvantage and, if yes, how does that affect upon their party preferences and voting behaviour? Do such workers turn toward anti-system parties (such as the radical right) or to the populist left? Or do they tend to abstain from voting?



Related publications


Marx, P. (2016) 'The Insider-Outsider Divide and Economic Voting. Testing a New Theory with German Electoral Data', Socio-Economic Review, 14(1), 97-118.


Marx, P. (2015) The Political Behaviour of Temporary Workers. Palgrave Macmillan.


Emmenegger, P., Marx, P. & Schraff, D. (2015) 'Labour Market Disadvantage, Political Orientations and Voting: How Adverse Labour Market Experiences Translate into Electoral Behaviour', Socio-Economic Review, 13(2), 189-213.


Marx, P. (2014) 'The Effect of Job Insecurity and Employability on Preferences for Redistribution in Western Europe', Journal of European Social Policy, 24(4), 351-366.


Guillaud, E. & Marx, P. (2014) 'Preferences for Employment Protection and the Insider-Outsider Divide: Evidence from France', West European Politics, 37(5), 1177-1185.


Marx, P. (2014) 'Labour Market Risks and Political Preferences: The Case of Temporary Employment',  European Journal of Political Research, 53(1), 136–159.


Marx, P. & Picot, G. (2014) 'Labour Market Policies and Party Preferences of Fixed-term Workers', in: Kumlin, S. & Stadelmann-Steffen, I. (eds.), How Welfare States Shape the Democratic Public: Policy Feedback, Participation, Voting, and Attitudes. Edward Elgar, 113-131.


Marx, P. & Picot, G. (2013) 'The Party Preferences of Atypical Workers in Germany', Journal of European Social Policy, 23(2), 164-178.


The influence of socio-economic problems on political integration

Research project funded by the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Culture and Science (1,250,000 EUR) from December 2017 to November 2022



The project addresses the question of how individual socio-economic problems, such as poverty, long-term unemployment or job insecurity, contribute to political apathy or radicalization. These socio-economic problems are widespread in many European societies. At the same time, there are indications that the uneven distribution of income and life chances might contribute to eroding the legitimacy of democracies. On the one hand, radical parties seem to benefit from frustration about economic conditions. On the other hand, there is a trend towards political apathy that is especially pronounced among people affected by social problems. Socio-economic factors thus seem to contribute to a political crisis expressed in political disenchantment and ideological polarization. Given the cost pressures on welfare states, globalization, immigration and radical technological change, it is more than likely that that (real or perceived) precariousness will continue to shape European societies in the future.

Against this background, the aim of the project is a better understanding of the link between individual socio-economic problems and political behavior (in particular, participation in elections and party preferences). Although this link is a classical topic in Political Sociology, we still know little about why economic problems diminish political integration. The same is true for the question under which conditions such problems contribute to apathy, pragmatic political demands or radicalization.

The project will address these questions with a highly interdisciplinary approach and a combination of different research methods (including ethnography, experiments, and longitudinal studies).


Related publications


Marx, P. (forthcoming) 'Anti-Elite Politics and Emotional Reactions to Socio-Economic problems. Experimental Evidence on ‘Pocketbook Anger’ from France, Germany, and the United States', British Journal of Sociology.


Marx, P. & Nguyen, C. (2018) 'Anti-Elite Parties and Political Inequality: How Challenges to the Political Mainstream Reduce Income Gaps in Internal Efficacy', European Journal of Political Research, 57(4), 919-940.


Marx, P. & Schumacher, G. (2018) 'Do Poor Citizens Vote for Redistribution, Against Immigration, or Against the Establishment? A Conjoint Experiment in Denmark', Scandinavian Political Studies, 41(3), 263-282.


Marx, P. & Nguyen, C. (2018) 'Political Participation in European Welfare States: Does Social Investment Matter?', Journal of European Public Policy, 24(7), 1027-1047.

The influence of socio-economic problems on political integration (2017-2022) The political behaviour of temporary workers (2013-2014)