Trajectories of Populism: Populist Parties in Europe and the Consequences of the Refugee Crisis

Party Systems
Julian Bernauer
Universität Mannheim
Julian Bernauer
Universität Mannheim

The so-called “refugee crisis” has caught Europe by some surprise in 2015. With Europe being slow to establish a coherent strategy, domestic politics only begins to feel the consequences. This article seeks to assess the influence of the crisis on the electoral success of (especially right-wing) populist parties. Standard models of niche party politics are pushed to their limits by the events, and particular attention is paid in theoretical and empirical terms to the effects of the suddenly high levels of immigration, such as the question whether it has rocketed the populist parties’ electoral potential to a ceiling, ultimately resulting in a bounce back under conditions such as government participation. Alternative explanations, including domestic political-institutional features (including the permissiveness of the electoral system or the availability of direct democracy), the reactions of competitors and the demand for populism are considered as well. The empirical analysis covers all European democracies and the (regional) electoral fortune of populist parties at national elections between 2010 and 2017. A Bayesian multilevel latent curve model is used to assess and explain electoral trajectories.
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