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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Radical Choices Voiced Online. The Determinants of Populist Support in France and in The Netherlands

Political Leadership
Anne Jadot
Sciences Po Paris
Anne Jadot
Sciences Po Paris
André Krouwel
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Thomas Vitiello
Sabancı University

Hypotheses on why people vote for populist parties are abound, yet academic findings are inconclusive. Some suggest that populist parties’ success is due to their candidates’ appeal, others see as explanatory factors a general dissatisfaction with representative democracy or the agreement with populist policy proposals. Most studies – particularly those based on national elections studies – suffer from the problem that too few populist voters are identifiable and too little is known about their opinion structure to simultaneously test all these explanations.
Through Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) in The Netherlands and France we have compiled unique datasets including tens of thousands populist parties’ supporters with responses on a large number of issues, leadership evaluations and societal perceptions. In traditional surveys, there is a classic underreporting of radical (right) vote intentions, while evidence exists that online questionnaires collect more open responses. Moreover, online surveying also bypasses interviewer effects and social desirability biases that affect face-to-face surveys, especially on controversial issues. In addition, VAAs structurally provide an incentive for unbiased answers: online users who want to obtain a personalised placement within a multidimensional party landscape of their country, in order to compare their own position with the stances of candidates or parties, get a “reward” for providing honest answers. These VAAs features increase data quality substantially for analyses of radical political attitudes and behaviour.
Our paper will rigorously test the extent to which leadership evaluations, agreement with policies and (dis)satisfaction with the system drive the populist vote. By comparing the 2012 French and Dutch elections in which Marine Le Pen’s (Front National) and Geert Wilder’s PVV run, we analyse populist parties at different development stages. Contrary to what is commonly assumed, we hypothesize that personalized leadership among right-wing parties is stronger in parliamentary systems than in presidential systems.
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