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Political Science in Europe

Feeling Threatened by the Crisis – The Nationalist Backlash and its Effect on Domestic Voting Preferences

Bernd Schlipphak
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Bernd Schlipphak
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

The international financial crisis has shaken the world in recent years and it seems unlikely that citizens do not react to such a crisis. The gain of votes achieved by domestic nationalist parties in these years seem to indicate that, as a response to the now felt increase of interconnectedness and vulnerability toward the outside, citizens are returning more and more to the (perceived) security of a more autonomous nation state. That is, in face of international events and institutions which are perceived as threats, citizens should be more likely to return to nationalist values, such as skeptical attitudes toward regional and international integration and cooperation, toward immigration, and toward globalization in general. This phenomenon – which has been labeled a “nationalist backlash” – however should also lead them to evaluate their national political actors in terms of their international behavior. National governmental actors perceived to being in favor of more international and regional cooperation, and toward an increase in the shift of sovereignty should be evaluated much more skeptically than before the crisis. In contrast, political actors and parties pushing for a more nationalist and right-wing agenda should be rewarded by gaining more and more acceptance, and finally by gaining votes. The paper argues 1) that the recent success of nationalist and right-wing parties can be ascribed to such a nationalist backlash which has taken place in response to the financial crisis, and 2) that such an effect of the nationalist backlash should be most likely in states in which international organizations and actors (such as the US, the EU, the IMF, the UN or the World Bank) have intervened in national political decision-making. The argument will be tested quantitatively by turning to data provided by the European Social Survey and the Eurobarometer and by employing multi-level regression models.
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