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Mobilization and Support Structures in Networks on the Political Right. Right-Wing Parties’ Digital Linkages and User Engagements in the Context of the 2019 EP Election

Nationalism
Populism
Campaign
Social Media
Mobilisation
European Parliament
Annett Heft
Freie Universität Berlin
Annett Heft
Freie Universität Berlin
Barbara Pfetsch
Freie Universität Berlin
Susanne Reinhardt
Freie Universität Berlin

Abstract

Since right-wing populist parties are on the rise in some European countries, the EU elections seemed particularly prone to foster concerted political action to amplify right-wing positions on a pan-European scale. Digital networks are convenient tools to link institutionalized right-wing politics to the electorate and to enable a variety of actors to engage with party politics directly. In our study, therefore, we investigate digital networks around right-wing parties in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Sweden. We consider hyperlinking as a political strategy employed by parties and users engaging with them and analyze their interaction networks on Twitter across six European countries and three time-periods around the EP election (March, May, July 2019). We ask which mobilization and support structures we can find between parties, movements and individual actors on the national and transnational scale and to what extent those right-wing networks reach out to and are permeated by mainstream media and political elites. We hypothesized to find an interplay between a campaign-related strategy to link up with established political actors and media to appeal to the broader electorate and attempts of ideological closure enacted by denser interconnections within a right-wing community. Our analyses, though, show less campaign-related dynamics but rather stable communication structures between right-wing parties and their allies. We especially find diverging degrees of ideological coherence of those networks on the right which closely correspond with the national and European political opportunity structures in which parties and political entrepreneurs operate.