Contextual Factors and the Extreme Right Vote in Western Europe, 1980-2002

Over the last 7 years or so, much of my work has focused on the question of why support for the Extreme Right is so unstable over time and so uneven across countries. In a recent paper on Contextual Factors and the Extreme Right Vote in Western Europe, 1980-2002, I estimate a model that aims at providing a more comprehensive and satisfactory answer to this research problem by employing a broader database and a more adequate modelling strategy, i.e. multi-level modelling. The main finding is that while immigration and unemployment rates are important, their interaction with other political factors is much more complex than suggested by previous research. Moreover, persistent country effects prevail even if a whole host of individual and contextual variables is controlled for. Replication data for this article is available from my dataverse.

The final version of the paper will appear in the April issue of the American Journal of Political Science, which is obviously great.

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Christian Religiosity and Voting for West European Radical Right Parties

Does religion make you a better or worse human being? More specifically, does Christian religiosity reduce or increase the likelihood of a radical/extreme right vote in a West European context? This is the question Liz and I are trying to address in our latest paper on “Christian Religiosity and Voting for West European Radical Right Parties“.

There are a number of reasons why good Christians could be more likely to vote for the Right than agnostics: American research starting in the 1940s has linked high levels of church attendance and a closed belief systems to support for rightism. More over, contemporary Radical Right parties try to frame the issue of immigration in terms of a struggle between Christian/Western values and Islam.

On the other hand, many of the most radical parties (e.g. the Austrian FPÖ) have anti-clerical roots. Moreover, the Churches give support and shelter to refugees/immigrants in many countries, and some pro-immigrant movements are inspired by Christian values. Finally, religious voters are often firmly tied to Christian-Democratic parties and will therefore not be available for the Radical Right.

We develop a theoretical model that incorporates these mechanisms and use Structural Equation Modelling to test this model in eight countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Norway. As it turns out, religious people do not differ from their more agnostic compatriots in terms of their attitudes towards immigrants. They are, however, less likely to vote for the radical right because they often identify with Christian Democratic/Conservative parties. The final version of the paper will appear in West European Politics.

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Does inequality depress turnout (or what you shouldn’t do with time-series cross-sectional data)?

The US might face unprecedented levels of turnout in tomorrow’s election, but historically, the non-voters are the biggest camp in American politics. One intriguing explanation for this well-known fact is that low turnout could be a consequence of the very high (by any standard) levels of income inequality: because voters lack experience with universalistic institutions, they are less likely to adopt norms and values that foster participation in elections. This is the gist of an article that appeared recently (by social science standards) in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations. While the thesis is interesting enough, I did not find the evidence (design, operationalisation, statistical model) particularly convincing and consequentially embarked on a major replication exercise. As it turned out, there are indeed major problems with the original analysis, including a rather problematic application of the ever popular time-series cross-sectional approach (aka Beck&Katz). Last week, my own article on the (non-)relationship between inequality and turnout has finally appeared in the BJPIR. If you don’t have access to the journal, you can still download the preprint version (“Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something True?”) from my homepage. And if you in turn find this rather unconvincing, you can download the replication data for the various inequality/turnout models and do your own analysis. Enjoy.
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Does Immigration help or hurt the Front National in France?

In a recent article in the European Journal of Political Research, Kestilä and Söderlund claim (amongst other things) that in the French regional elections of 2004, turnout and district magnitude have significant negative effects oDepartements in Francen the extreme right vote whereas the effects of the number of party lists and unemployment are positive and significant. Most interestingly, immigration (which is usually a very good predictor for the radical right vote) had no effect on the success of the Front National. More generally, they argue that a subnational approach can control for a wider range of factors and provide more reliable results than cross-national analyses (now the most common approach to this phenomenon). My colleague Liz Carter and I disagreed and engaged in a massive replication/re-analysis endeavour. The outcome is a critique of the KS model of subnational political opportunity structures in regional elections. In this paper, we dispute Kestilä’s and Söderlund’s claims on theoretical, conceptual and methodological grounds and demonstrate that their findings are spurious. Today, the European Journal has accepted the article for publication (probably in 2009) 🙂

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What Drives the Extreme Right Vote: Protest, Neo-Liberalism or Anti-Immigrant Sentiment?

Everyone just seems to know that the voters of the Extreme Right hate foreigners in general and immigrants in particular, but robust comparative evidence for the alleged xenophobia – Rad"Our own people first"ical Right vote link is scarce. Moreover, many of the published analyses are based on somewhat outdated (i.e. 1990s) data, and alternative accounts of the extreme right vote (the “unpolitical” protest hypothesis and the hypothesis that the Far Right in Western Europe attracts people with “neo-liberal” economic preferences, championed by Betz and Kitschelt in the 1990s) do exist. Just a few days ago, a journal has accepted a paper by me in which I test these three competing hypotheses using (relatively) recent data from the European Social Survey and a little Structural Equation Modelling. As it turns out, protest and neo-liberalism have no statistically significant impact on the Extreme Right vote whatsoever. Anti-immigrant sentiment, however, plays a crucial role for the Extreme Right in all countries but Italy. Its effects are moderated by party identification and general ideological preferences. Moreover, the effect of immigrant sentiment is moderate by general ideological preferences and party identification. I conclude that comparative electoral research should focus on the circumstances under which immigration is politicised. Wasn’t it blindingly obvious?

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German Citizenship Law Revisited: Howard’s “Causes and Consequences of Germany’s New Citizenship Law”

In a recent post, I have commented on a (now scrapped) law from the 1930s that made it technically illegal for “foreign” PhDs to use their titles in Germany. A superficially similar case concerns the German citizenship law that was first enacted in 1913 (the Empire happily existed without a concept of federal citizenship for more than four decades) and remained in force with minor amendments until 2000. At the core of this law was the idea that one cannot become German. Rather, one is German by virtue of the bloodline, i.e. by having German forefathers (the original sexist bias of the law was ameliorated in the 1970s). This is the infamous ius sanguinis. However, while the PhD regulations were half-forgotten and rarely enforced (though they provided an income for dubious lawyers), the continuity of the citizenship law after the war was clearly the result of political intent and was even enshrined in article 116 of the constitution.

While the ius sanguinis is archaic, the West German elites had two good reasons for not modernising the law. First, given that Bonn did not accept East Germany’s claim to sovereignty, meddling with the concept of citizenship was obviously dodgy. Second, West Germany considered itself a safe haven for millions of ethnic Germans who were still living in Central and Eastern Europe. Sticking with the traditional concept of citizenship kept the door wide open for these people: like in the case of refugees from East Germany, there was no need to apply for citizenship, because they were already German. Moreover, German citizenship was not exactly in high demand after the war.

One unforeseen consequence of the citizenship law was, however, that children born in Germany by foreigners remained themselves foreigners. By the 1990s, Germany had a sizeable and growing population of several million second (and third) generation foreigners, but thanks to the phenomenal inertia of Germany’s political system and their political persuasions, the Kohl-led governments of the 1980s and 1990s made only token attempts to remedy this situation. The (then new) SPD/Green government, however, came up with some rather radical reform ideas soon after it was elected in 1998. Howard’s article tells the complex and heroic tale of these reforms and the immense political backlash they created. It’s highly recommend for anyone who wants to understand the intricacies of the political battle of citizenship and immigration.

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Democratic values and attitudes in Turkey

Last year, the “Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie and Sozialpsychologie” published an article on the level of support for the European Union’s core principles (democracy, gender equality, religious freedom, rule of law) in Turkey. In essence, the author claimed that the level of support for these principles in Turkey is low because a) the level of economic development is low while b) the number of Muslims is very high. Thanks to the very efficient PR office at the university of Cologne, these findings made their way into the mainstream media in Germany (including the English service of the Deutsche Welle) and Turkey and eventually even into the more shady parts of the blogosphere (that are normally the object rather than the consumer of sociological studies).

I felt, however, that the analysis suffered from a whole host of serious methodological and theoretical shortcomings, and that the claims of the original paper are untenable. Therefore, I wrote a comment on “Paßt die Türkei zur EU und die EU zu Europa” (in German, also as PDF). The Kölner Zeitschrift has recently accepted my article, and it will appear in the next issue. Replication data and stata scripts for my paper are available, too.

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