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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Extreme Right Book now online

Courtesy of Google’s book search, a large parts of my new book on the Extreme Right in Western Europe (in German) is now available online. I don’t know how they calculate which and how many pages one may view but I was able to read several consecutive pages of it. Plus you have the search function which comes in handy if you know exactly what you are looking for e.g. because you want to verify a quote. And if Google fails you, you can always try amazon which has its own online version of “Die Wähler der Extremen Rechten 1980-2002”. Nice.
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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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Library of Electoral Behaviour/Electoral Behavior

As a subdiscipline, the study of electoral behavior (or “psephology”) begins with a handful of monographs that were published in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. It’s amazing to see how concepts and ideas that were developed in Downs’ “Economic Theory of Democracy” or in the “American Voter” by Campbell et al. some 50 years ago inform our work to the present day. However, the study of electoral behaviour (or electoral behavior – the publisher keep changing the title just to confuse me) did obviously not end with these holy books. From the 1960s on, the discipline was increasingly defined by a number of ground breaking articles that were published in professional journals.

This collection gave us the opportunity to bring together 66 articles which – in our humble view – define the discipline, represent important new departures, or bring together the knowledge we have on a given subject. As a friend of mine wisely remarked, at $ 950 the collection might be slightly underpriced. Then again, if you teach a course on electoral behaviour or political sociology, or if just want to get an overview of electoral studies, getting much if not most of the important stuff in one four-volume-1640-pages book is really a bargain. Maybe you should invite your librarian for a coffee. Make it a large one.

What the Library of Electoral Behaviour gives you is a full introduction to the study of electoral behaviour plus:

Socio-Political Models

  1. Lipset, S. M. and S. Rokkan (eds.) (1967) [‘Introduction’] in Party Systems and Voter Alignments: Cross-National Perspectives, New York: The Free Press..

  2. Erikson, Robert, John H. Goldthorpe and Lucienne Portocarero (1979), ‘Intergenerational Class Mobility in Three Western European Societies. England, France and Sweden’, British Journal of Sociology 30: 415-441

  3. Alford, Robert R. (1962): A Suggested Index of the Association of Social Class and Voting, in: Public Opinion Quarterly 26, S. 417–425

  4. Lijphart, Arend: Religious vs. Linguistic vs. Class Voting: The “Crucial Experiment” of Comparing Belgium, Canada, South Africa, and Switzerland, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 73, No. 2. (Jun., 1979), pp. 442-458.

  5. Class Mobility and Political Preferences: Individual and Contextual Effects Nan Dirk De Graaf; Paul Nieuwbeerta; Anthony Heath The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 100, No. 4. (Jan., 1995), pp. 997-1027.

  6. The Developmental Theory of the Gender Gap: Women’s and Men’s Voting Behavior in Global Perspective Ronald Inglehart; Pippa Norris ‎. (Oct., 2000), pp. 441-463.

  7. Alan Zuckerman (1975) ‘Political Cleavage: a conceptual and theoretical analysis’, British Journal of Political Science, 5: 231-248.

  8. Key, V. O. “A Theory of Critical Elections.” The Journal of Politics 17, no. 1 (1955): 3-18

  9. Belknap, G., and A. Campbell. “Political Party Identification and Attitudes toward Foreign Policy.” The Public Opinion Quarterly 15, no. 4 (1951): 601-23.

  10. Converse, P. (1966) ‘The concept of a normal vote’ in A. Campbell et al (eds.) Elections and the Political Order, New York, John Wiley.

  11. Jennings, M.K. and R. Niemi (1968) ‘The transmission of political values from parent to child’, American Political Science Review, 62: 169-84.

  12. Converse, Philip E. (1964), ‘The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics’, in: David E. Apter (ed). Ideology and Discontent, pp. 206-261, New York: Free Press

  13. Jackson, J. (1983). “The systematic beliefs of the mass public: estimating policy preferences with survey data” in Journal of Politics, vol. 45: 840-58.

  14. Markus, Gregory B., and Philip E. Converse. “A Dynamic Simultaneous Equation Model of Electoral Choice.” The American Political Science Review 73, no. 4 (1979): 1055-70.

  15. Fiorina, Morris P. “An Outline for a Model of Party Choice.” American Journal of Political Science 21, no. 3 (1977): 601-25.

  16. Bartels, Larry M. “Partisanship and Voting Behavior, 1952-1996.” American Journal of Political Science 44 (2000): 35-50.

Cognition and the Voter Calculus

  1. Hotelling, Harold (1929), ‘Stability in Competition’, The Economic Journal 39(153): 41-57.

  2. Riker, William H., and Peter C. Ordeshook. “A Theory of the Calculus of Voting.” American Political Science Review 62 (1968): 25-42.

  3. Continue reading “Library of Electoral Behaviour/Electoral Behavior”

Finally: New book on the Extreme Right Vote in Western Europe, 1980-2002

It’s almost unbelievable: after some six months of communication problems with the publishers, my recent book on the extreme right vote in Western Europe since the 1980s is finally out and ready for you to order and read (qualification: if you read German). If you don’t read German, you might still be interested in a brief English summary of my findings on the Extreme Right vote, including various presentations and other goodies.

New Extreme Right Book out – soon?

Over the last seven years our so, much of my research has focused on the voters of the Extreme Right in Western Europe. Last November, I submitted the final draft of a monograph on that topic to a well-established German publishing company, with view of getting the book out in late January. Then, a lot of things happened (or rather failed to happen). But, believe it or not, yesterday they sent me the contract, and now “Die Wähler der extremen Rechten 1980-2002” is officially in print. I’ll keep you posted.

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A fresh look at economic voting

The basic assumptions of the theory of economic voting are very simple:

  • voters care about unemployment, inflation, and growth
  • voters blame the government for adverse economic conditions
  • voters use the ballot to punish the government.

Unfortunately, the impact of this effect is not constant over time and across countries, which is slightly embarrassing. In their recent book, van der Brug et al. do not claim that they have solved this puzzle, but they maintain that they have taken the discussion one step further. According to them, previous research has looked at the wrong variable, i.e. (dichotomous or multinomial) vote intentions. This is hardly surprising. For the last decade or so, these authors and their associates have campaigned for an alternative measure, namely the subjective probability to vote for each single party. However, their measure (which has been implemented in the European Election Studies) is not uncontroversial. First, analysts must account for the clustering of these ratings (while we might look at 4,000 or 6,000 ratings, we still have only 1,000 truly independent cases, i.e. persons). Second, if a respondent does not rate a party, is that a missing value or a zero probability? Third, comparisons across political systems (especially comparisons of two-/multiparty systems) are at least as dodgy as comparisons of the traditional variable. And finally, while counting votes/vote intentions obviously discards valuable information about the individual calculus that leads to this decision, subjective probabilities are closer to party sympathies than to real thing. Nonetheless, an interesting read.

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Turnout, Institutions, Inequality, and the Welfare State

Last year, the British Journal of Politics and International Relations published an article which essentially argued that higher levels of welfare state spending create attitudes which are conducive to higher turnout. I was not convinced and so I wrote a comment/replication in which I demonstrate that there is no robust evidence for a universal, politically relevant relationship between
inequality/welfare state spending, and turnout
(HTML). The journal has recently accepted the article for publication later in 2008, but for the time being, the manuscript is available here (PDF). I have also set up an archive with replication data for this paper.

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