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What Unites the Electorally Successful Populist Radical Right Revisited

Sat, September 2, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Hilton Union Square, Golden Gate 4


I used data collected in the first immigration module of the European Social Survey in 2002/3 to analyze which voter grievances electorally successful populist radical right in Western Europe most effectively mobilized (Ivarsflaten, CPS, 2008). In that study, I considered a range of hypotheses under the three headlines “grievance models emphasizing economic changes”, “grievance models emphasizing political disillusionment”, and “grievance models emphasizing concerns over immigration”. The analysis showed that voters´ grievances over immigration was both (a) the only concern that all successful populist radical right parties consistently mobilized in all the detailed country-by-country analyses; and (b) the variable with the most explanatory power when pooling the data across countries in a model of the populist radical right vote. The proposed paper analyses the new immigration module in the ESS collected in 2014 to examine whether the earlier conclusions still hold. On the one hand, there were reasons to believe that this would be the case. The relative importance of these three grievance models remains a central point of discussion in the scholarly literature and in public debate about the populist radical right. On the other hand, much changed in Europe between 2002 and 2014. New populist radical right parties have emerged, there has been a financial crisis, and populist anti-establishment and anti-EU sentiment has risen. Some think therefore that grievance models emphasizing the economy or political disillusionment have now become more important. Still, the results of the analysis in the proposed paper confirms that immigration is the core grievance mobilized by electorally successful populist radical right parties in Western Europe. As in the previous analysis, grievances over immigration is both the only concern consistently mobilized by all populist radical right parties and the grievance with the most explanatory power in a pooled analysis. Some noteworthy changes are however identified. Most importantly, the results show that disillusionment with politics—politicians in general and the EU in particular—have indeed become more influential to the populist radical right vote.