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Mapping the Complex Relationship Between Voters and Parties to Explain Differences in Radical Party Performance Based on New Theorizing, New Data, and New Methods

Comparative Politics
Extremism
Political Methodology
Political Parties
Populism
Quantitative
Electoral Behaviour
Survey Experiments
P225
Reinhard Heinisch
Universität Salzburg
Fabian Habersack
University of Innsbruck

Abstract

Radical parties vary in their success as they pursue different agendas and are supported by voters for different reasons. Populism, nativism, authoritarianism, illiberalism, sovereignism, and calls for sweeping change shape both the demand and supply side of contemporary radical politics in European party systems. In response to voter sentiments, radical parties pursue different strategies. These range from hard opposition to mainstreaming, convergence, cooperation, and even coalitions with mainstream parties. How do we compare radical parties in terms of their agendas and strategic behavior; how do we relate this to voter preferences; and how can these differences account for the variation in success across party systems? Examining these connections has proved challenging due to the difficulties of theorizing the nature of the relationship between radical parties and voters as well as the limitations in the data, particularly their scope and the fit of underlying measures. The problem has been twofold. First, past measures of radical attitudes, for example of populism may be inadequate for understanding how many voters conceive of democratic politics, the role of parties, and thus formulate their preferences and expectations. Recent research suggests that preferences can be highly specific, e.g. focused on individual economic wellbeing, or very broad, e.g. shaped by a general sense of fairness and/or diffuse fears. Moreover, on the supply side, radical actors have shown themselves capable of appealing effectively to radical ideas, by activating, diffuse fears, invoking change agency, reframing public debates, and giving concrete meaning to general concerns. In doing so, they are redefining general expectations about how democracies should function and what they need to deliver. Until recently, it was difficult to compare such voters’ expectations and relate these to party positions because proxy measures such as trust (in institutions, etc.) had to substitute for varying conceptualizations of populism for example. To the extent data sources with good indicators on these positions existed, they were often limited to few countries. The growing dominance of the ideational conceptualization of populism in empirical scholarship and its demarcation from other forms of radicalism has improved standardization, resulting in an increasing number of data sets compiled by specialists, yielding new data on conceptualizations and countries long neglected. Moreover, there are innovative methodological approaches under way such as especially survey experiments that also draw on political psychology and help us advance our understanding not only of populism but of radical politics more generally. Do our earlier assumptions hold up and can we more effectively explain cross-national differences? This panel will present novel research drawing on new data sources and innovative methods to explain how demand and supply side factors explain cross-national differences in the success of radical parties.

Title Details
Patterns of Populism: Diverging or Converging Populism? View Paper Details
Variants of Populism Getting Together? Matching Party and Voter Data in Populism Research View Paper Details
What Do Radical and Populist Voters Expect from a Government Party? Findings of a Cross-National Survey Experiment View Paper Details
Dimensions of Populism; New Measures and New Data View Paper Details
Dissatisfied Democrats? Citizens’ Notions of Democracy and Support for Populist Parties in Europe View Paper Details