Euroscepticism and the electoral success of the far right: the role of the strategic interaction between center and far right

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In this paper, we use the terms Eurosceptic and anti-EU interchangeably.

  2. 2.

    These are the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

  3. 3.

    Following Golder (2003), Arzheimer (2009) and Spies and Franzmann (2011), we do not control for other measures of economic wealth.

  4. 4.

    International migrant stock is the number of people born in a country other than that in which they live. It also includes refugees.

  5. 5.

    Total population is based on the de facto definition of population, which counts all residents regardless of legal status or citizenship—except for refugees not permanently settled in the country of asylum, who are generally considered part of the population of their country of origin.

  6. 6.

    This party existed until 2011 under the name For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK).

  7. 7.

    Model 3 and 4 have been estimated based on only 73 cases because in two cases the position of the center-right party is not covered by the CHES and therefore the distance between the center- and far-right party cannot be calculated.

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Correspondence to Edina Szöcsik.

Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 2.

Table 2 List of the most successful far-right parties

Appendix 2

See Table 3.

Table 3 List of the radical-left parties represented in the parliament

Appendix 3

See Table 4.

Table 4 Summary statistics

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Szöcsik, E., Polyakova, A. Euroscepticism and the electoral success of the far right: the role of the strategic interaction between center and far right. Eur Polit Sci 18, 400–420 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-018-0162-y

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Keywords

  • Far-right parties
  • Euroscepticism
  • Party competition
  • Center-right parties
  • Issue emphasis