Elisabeth Ivarsflaten: What Unites Right-Wing Populists in Western Europe Revisited


Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 2:15pm to 4:00pm


Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (Lower Level Conference Room, Busch Hall, 27 Kirkland Street).


On Wednesday, April 12 at 2:15 pm, the CES-WCFIA Study Group on Populism, Nationalism, and Radical Politics will host Elisabeth Ivarsflaten (Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen). Professor Ivarsflaten is a leading scholar of European radical-right parties. In her talk, Professor Ivarsflaten will examine what unites radical-right voters today, nine years after the publication of her classic Comparative Political Studies article on this topic. Colleen Driscoll, Ph.D. student in the Government Department and co-organizer of the Study Group, will serve as discussant. Please see below for more details about the event.


Elisabeth Ivarsflaten, Professor of Political Science, University of Bergen; Professor II, Center for Research on Right-Wing Extremism, University of Oslo.


Abstract: An article I published in Comparative Political Studies in 2008 examined which voter grievances electorally successful populist radical right parties in Western Europe most effectively mobilized, using data collected in the first immigration module of the European Social Survey in 2002/3. Several hypotheses were discussed under the headlines, “grievances over the economy”, “grievances over the political system”, and “grievances over immigration”. The analysis showed that voters' grievances over immigration were 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 present talk uses data from the new immigration module in the ESS collected in 2015/16 to examine whether the conclusions of the earlier study still hold. On the one hand, there are reasons to believe that this would be the case, but, on the other hand, fundamental changes have taken place in European politics between 2003 and 2015. For example, new populist radical right parties have emerged, there has been a financial crisis, and populist anti-establishment and anti-EU sentiment has risen. The results of the new analysis confirm that immigration is still 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, grievances over the EU and political elites has become much more prominent explanations for the populist radical right vote.


The CES-WCFIA Study Group on Populism, Nationalism and Radical Politics brings together social scientists studying the recent rise of populist and nationalist movements, parties, and candidates in Europe and beyond. The group is co-organized by Bart Bonikowski (Associate Professor of Sociology; CES Resident Faculty), Colleen Driscoll (PhD Student, Department of Government), Max Goplerud (PhD Student, Department of Government), and Noam Gidron (CES Research Associate). For information about past events, including video recordings of the proceedings, please visit the Study Groups website.