Euroscepticism and the electoral success of the far right: the role of the strategic interaction between center and far right
The appeal of far-right parties’ ideologies is one of the key drivers of such parties’ electoral wins in Europe. Most studies, however, have focused on the far right’s anti-immigrant or anti-minority discourse as the defining feature of this party family. In this article, we examine: (1) The conditions under which far-right parties benefit electorally from their Eurosceptic discourses, and (2) How center-right parties’ responses to the far right affect the latter’s electoral outcomes. The results of multilevel regression models show that when the distance between far-right and center-right parties’ positions toward European integration narrows, the vote share of far-right parties increases—but only up to a point. When the distance continues to narrow, without reaching zero, the far right’s vote share decreases. Our empirical analysis relies on the Chapel Hill Expert Survey series dataset and examines 75 cases of far-right parties in 22 European countries between 1999 and 2014. The findings suggest that center-right parties face a difficult strategic dilemma as they compete for votes with the far right: moving incrementally closer to the far right’s position can benefit the far right by intensifying competition over the issue of European integration. An almost full cooperation of the far right’s agenda, however, dampens the success of the far right. The center right must strike a balance that allows it to be responsive to Eurosceptic voters while retaining a centrist identity.
KeywordsFar-right parties Euroscepticism Party competition Center-right parties Issue emphasis
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