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Mobilizing identities? Longitudinal comparative evidence on national identity, political elite discourses and far-right voting

National Identity
Nationalism
Political Parties
Populism
Political Sociology
Comparative Perspective
Antonia May
GESIS, Leibniz
Christian Czymara
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Antonia May
GESIS, Leibniz

Abstract

Recent years have been dominated by two major subjects. The success of (right-wing) populist parties and movements has shaken various political party systems around the globe. Tensions between liberalized citizenship policies emphasizing cultural and civic elements in contrast to parties and movements stressing ethnically based and therefore restrictive politics of exclusivity (Trittler 2017b: 367, Steenvoorden and Wright 2018: 1f.) have become observable. Additionally, globalization and increased migration flows have revived issues of integration, belonging and membership and have challenged national communities concerning their integrational capacities as well as their self-understanding as national and political communities. Policy makers are faced with questions of membership boundaries, issues of access to state territory, education system, social and political participation, labor market, and social welfare (Vink and Bauböck 2013: 622). Since politics of citizenship inevitable imply politics of identity (Brubaker 1992: 182), these tensions show how contested conceptions of belonging are. How individuals draw the line between compatriots and ´others´ in contrast to legal settings have far-reaching real-life consequences in the political arena (Ditlmann and Kopf-Beck 2019: 424). We argue that both phenomena can be connected through different understandings of national belonging. First, national identity as a rather subtle facet of the individual's self-perception, though seriously consequential when challenged, could explain why especially right-wing populist attitudes gained salience in the face of claimed enormous inflow of migrants. This however includes the necessity of being activated in order to be salient. Second, national identity might furthermore explain skepticism about supranational institutions and regulations through preferences for national sovereignty. Last, national identity is expected to vary within national communities, which could explain why only some parts of societies resonate with right-wing populist attitudes. To test the relationship between national identities and right-wing populism, we use data from the ONBound dataset offering harmonized data on national identities and political attitudes across several countries in 1995, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2017. Our first goal is to examine the relationship between individual views of national identity and populist attitudes, analyzing cross-national and temporal differences. In a second step, we draw upon manifesto data to check whether differences in this relationship can be explained by political elite discourses.