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Euroscepticism at Times of Crisis: Explaining Fringe Party Voting in the 2014 EP Elections

Elections
European Union
Extremism
Voting
Sofia Vasilopoulou
University of York
Daphne Halikiopoulou
University of Reading
Sofia Vasilopoulou
University of York

Abstract

Eurosceptic parties enjoyed widespread support during the May 2014 European Parliament (EP) elections. In many instances, such fringe parties marked an electoral breakthrough. For example, the far left Greek SYRIZA and Spanish PODEMOS as well as the far right Front National, UKIP, Danish People’s Party and the Greek Golden Dawn. What is interesting about the result is not the rise of these parties per se, but also the differences of these parties in terms of ideological persuasions and agendas. How may we explain fringe party voting patterns? While scholars have examined the success of the far right and far left independently of each other, the dynamics that result in these different patters of far right and far left party support remain under theorised. We propose a model that differentiates those voters that opt for fringe eurosceptic parties as opposed to mainstream, and between those who opt for fringe eurosceptic parties of the right and the left. Using data from the 2014 European Election Study, we test the explanatory value of two main models of fringe party support through the employment of a multi-level multinomial statistical model. First, the socio-structural model, which focuses on objective socio-economic characteristics of voters, including income, occupation sector, employment status, gender, place of residence and education; and second, the protest-based model which examines subjective attitudinal characteristics related to perceptions of relative deprivation, disillusionment with democracy and voter cynicism as a product of dissatisfaction with democratic politics. The paper progresses beyond the state of the art by including far right and far left voters in the same model thus distinguishing between characteristics and attitudes that are likely to draw these voters to either of these two extremes.