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Does Europe Matter in the European Electoral Arena? Populist Radical Right Party Support in the 2014 European Elections
The Korean Journal of International Studies 15-1 (April 2017), 131-64
Published online April 30, 2017
© 2017 The Korean Association of International Studies.

Geeyoung Hong [Bio-Data]
Received February 6, 2017; Revised March 31, 2017; Accepted April 4, 2017.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Abstract
The unprecedented surge of populist radical right (PRR) parties across Europe is one of the most striking outcomes of the 2014 European Parliament (EP) elections. To understand this phenomenon, this study attempts to identify the motivations underlying the PRR party support by simultaneously considering the three core ideologies of PRR parties (ethno-nationalism, authoritarianism and populism) and the two types of voting behaviour in EP elections (sincere voting and protest voting). At the same time, assuming that PRR party voters in EP elections could not be homogeneous when taking into consideration their vote choice in the previous national parliament election, it also examines the extent to which the motivation for PRR party support were different between the two types of PRR voters (PRR consistent voters and PRR switching voters). By analysing voting behaviour in Western European countries in which PRR parties were particularly successful in 2014, this study demonstrates that PRR voters in the 2014 EP elections were indeed motivated by European concerns and that they behaved differently according to their vote choice in the previous national parliament election. The results imply that the existing literature based on the ‘second-order election (SOE)’ model has some limitations with regard to fully explaining voting behaviour in EP elections and that PRR voters in EP elections are not a homogeneous group.
Keywords : European Parliament elections, populist radical right party, voting behaviour, second-order elections theory
INTRODUCTION

The 2014 European Parliament (EP) elections witnessed the unprecedented electoral success of populist radical right (PRR) parties, attracting considerable media and public attention.1 Although their electoral performances varied significantly across different EU member states, the results for these parties in several countries in 2014 were remarkable. PRR parties won first position with approximately 25 percent of the vote in France, Denmark and Britain, while in Austria and Finland they came in third based on the significant electoral gains they achieved in 2014. Indeed, their success came as a surprise because their results were exceptional, even considering that European elections have long been an occasion in which smaller and extremist parties generally performed better.


In the immediate aftermath of the elections, media reports largely attributed this exceptional surge of PRR party support to the Eurosceptic vote, pointing to the fact that the 2014 EP elections were held at the height of the European debt (euro) crisis and that left-wing Eurosceptic parties were also incredibly successful (Treib 2014). It should be noted, however, that PRR parties achieved their greatest successes in countries that had been little affected by the euro crisis. The so-called PIIGS countries that have been hard hit by the euro crisis, with the exception of Greece, even observed their radical right parties weakened. This would make it difficult to unquestioningly attribute the success of these parties in 2014 to the Eurosceptic vote. Moreover, PRR parties cannot be considered merely Eurosceptic given that Euroscepticism is one of several ideologies that underlie PRR parties, together with anti-immigration xenophobia, populist antipolitical- establishment sentiments and authoritarianism. Even the UKIP, which was founded solely in support of the Eurosceptic cause and has long been known for its Eurosceptic stance, is now moving beyond its Eurosceptic position and expanding its policy platform and appeals, which makes it difficult to dismiss this party as a Eurosceptic single-issue party (Abedi and Lundberg 2009; Whitaker and Lynch 2011; Ford et al. 2012).


Faced with this paradoxical situation, some scholars have argued that this particular surge of PRR parties in some countries in the 2014 EP elections could be better understood by looking at the dynamics of domestic party competition (Halikiopoulou and Vasilopoulou 2014). This raises the question of whether Eurosceptic sentiment was indeed an important factor in driving PRR party support in countries that have been little affected by the euro crisis and in which PRR parties could have achieved such impressive successes in the 2014 EP elections. If Eurosceptic sentiments were important in explaining PRR party support, this would have important implications in the study of voting behaviour in EP elections because this explanation is not consistent with the existing literature. As many scholars have already pointed out, most of the literature is based on the ‘second-order elections (SOE)’ theory, which has long considered European factors as unimportant with regard to voting behaviour in the European electoral arena.


Taking these considerations into account, this paper seeks to understand why so many voters voted for PRR parties in countries that have not been as severely affected by the euro crisis. Considering that an analysis of aggregate data such as a party’s vote share does not allow the clear identification of the motivations that might exist behind individual vote choice (Schmitt et al. 2008; Hobolt et al. 2009; Weber 2009; Hobolt and Spoon 2012), this paper attempts to explore, through an analysis of individual-level data, the motives that drove voters to support the PRR parties that were particularly successful in 2014. To accomplish this goal, this paper simultaneously takes into account the core ideologies of PRR parties and the existing ‘SOE’ model. In particular, this paper extends the ‘SOE’ model by also applying it to the European context. Using data from the European Election Study (EES) 2014 Voter Study, this paper demonstrates that voters who supported PRR parties in the 2014 EP elections were indeed motivated by European concerns and that they behaved differently according to their vote choices in the previous national parliament election.


CORE IDEOLOGICAL FEATURES OF THE POPULIST RADICAL RIGHT

Since the mid-1980s, newly-founded parties on the extreme right have emerged throughout Western Europe and have consolidated their presence in almost every party system. These parties have often been referred to as ‘new’ extreme right parties because they are different from the ‘old’ extreme right parties in many respects (Ignazi 1992; 2003; Taggart 1996; Rydgren 2004; Cole 2005; Mudde 2007). Whilst the traditional ‘old’ extreme right parties were defined in socio-economic terms, the ‘new’ extreme right parties are often viewed as byproducts of post-industrial societies that prioritised socio-cultural issues (Ignazi 2003; Rydgre 2005). The emergence of these parties has attracted significant academic attention to this party family. However, despite the considerable interest in this phenomenon, there is little consensus regarding a terminology for, and a definition of, this group of parties (Mudde 2007). Scholars have not been able to agree on the best term to use to designate these parties.2 Of the different terms in use, the current paper chooses ‘populist radical right party’ because this term is perceived to best represent the ideological characteristics of the parties included in the analysis of this paper.


The concept of the PRR party has been defined predominantly on the basis of ideological features. As such, several scholars have proposed three fundamental ideologies shared by parties defined as PRR: ethno-nationalism/nativism, authoritarianism and populism (Rydgren 2004; 2005; Cole 2005; Mudde 2007, 2010). First, ‘ethno-nationalism’ or ‘nativism’ is at the centre of the ideological features of the PRR. According to this ideology, a nation should be constituted by culturally homogeneous ethnic groups to preserve its unique national identity, as heterogeneous and plural ethnicities lead only to cultural extinction (Taguieff 1988; Minkenberg 1997). Based on this ideological underpinning, PRR parties successfully adopt xenophobic and Eurosceptic rhetoric. It should be noted here that the PRR is linked to cultural racism, which should be explicitly differentiated from the biological racism of the ‘old’ right (Rydgren 2005; Cutts et al. 2011). This means that contrary to the ‘old’ extreme right, the PRR is understood through a socio-cultural frame.


The second most commonly mentioned ideological feature of the PRR is ‘authoritarianism’ in socio-cultural terms. Although there is no cohesive definition of authoritarianism, several recent studies conceive of authoritarianism as an ideology that emphasizes obedience to established religious and political authorities, the overriding need for law and order, and social cohesion at the expense of individual autonomy. In this view, authoritarians have a strong tendency to obey established religious and political authorities while they do not accept those who do not comply (Altemeyer 1996); they also tend to rely upon law and order in order to deal with uncertainty and confusion (Hetherington and Weiler 2009); and they prioritise social cohesion over individual autonomy (Feldman 2003; Stenner 2005). In this respect, PRR parties are unequivocally authoritarian because they often adopt rhetoric prioritising law and order and traditional values.


Finally, the third ideological element that underlies the PRR is ‘populism’ (Taggart 1996; Ignazi 2003; Rydgren 2004; Mudde 2007, 2010; Aarter 2010). As the name ‘populist radical right’ implies, populism is one of its core ideological features, and so these parties tend to display an anti-politicalestablishment position. Although it could also be considered a style of communication or a political mobilisation strategy (Weyland 2001; Jagers and Walgrave 2007; Eatwell 2009; Moffitt and Tormey 2014), populism is defined here as an ideology that holds that there exists a clear divide between the pure ‘people’ and the corrupt ‘political class,’ including established political parties (Schedler 1996; Rydgren 2004; 2005; Mudde 2007; Abedi 2009). Based on this ideological position, PRR parties adopt outspoken anti-political-establishment rhetoric and attempt to distinguish themselves from established political parties. Importantly, unlike their traditional extreme right counterparts who have adopted anti-democratic rhetoric, they do not seek to appear anti-democratic; rather, they try to position themselves between the ‘normal’ opposition and the ‘anti-democratic’ opposition (Schedler 1996; Ignazi 2003; Rydgren 2004; 2005; Mudde 2007; Arter 2010). This strategy enables them to mobilise votes based on political protest sentiments in a successful way without generating as much hostility towards the PRR parties.


Although some ideological disparities exist between the parties that can be grouped together in the category of the PRR, an increasing number of scholars agree that these parties share these three core ideological characteristics. To identify the motivations that led to PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections, this paper focuses on the appeals or issues that were based on the following three core ideologies: (1) anti-immigrant appeals based on both ethno-nationalism and authoritarianism; (2) Eurosceptic appeals based on both ethno-nationalism and authoritarianism; and (3) anti-political-establishment appeals based on populism.


VOTING BEHAVIOUR IN EP ELECTIONS AS A SECOND-ORDER ELECTION

According to view of rational voting espoused by Downs (1957), in which political preference is central to vote choice, voting behaviour generally can be divided into two types. The first is ‘sincere voting’ in which voters cast their vote for their most preferred party or candidate without any considerations for the expected outcome (Gschwend 2007; Chandra 2009; Abramson et al. 2010). The second type of voting is ‘strategic voting’ in which voters choose parties or candidates other than their most preferred based on instrumental motivations (Franklin et al. 1994; Heath and Evans 1994; Cox 1997; Blais et al. 2001; Fisher 2004; Gschwend 2007; Chandra 2009; Abramson et al. 2010). As ‘strategic voting’ is a broad concept that covers several motivations, some scholars have attempted to differentiate between several different types of strategic voting. Franklin et al. (1994) distinguished between ‘instrumental strategic voting’ and ‘expressive strategic voting.’ In their view, ‘instrumental voters’ are those voters who, when their most preferred party or candidate has little chance of winning, vote for a different party to avoid wasting their vote, while ‘expressive voters’ are those who do not vote for their most preferred party or candidate in order to send a message or signal to their own preferred party (Franklin et al. 1994). As Heath and Evans (1994) have noted, the concept of ‘expressive strategic voting’ was similar to the concept that many other scholars have already termed ‘protest voting.’3


All three of these types of voting (sincere voting, instrumental strategic voting and expressive/protest strategic voting) are relevant for explaining the voting behaviour observed in ‘first-order elections (FOE)’ such as national parliament elections. However, this is not the case for the EP elections, which are considered ‘SOE’ because they do not result in any government formation (Reif and Schmitt 1980; Reif 1984). Given the ‘second-order’ nature of the EP elections, ‘instrumental strategic voting’ is hardly expected to be found in these. Instead, there has been consensus among scholars that voting behaviour in EP elections can be understood by either ‘sincere voting’ or ‘expressive/protest strategic voting.’ Compared to ‘first-order’ national elections in which voters’ instrumental strategic calculations remain dominant in determining their vote choice, voters rely more heavily on their ideological preferences when voting in EP elections (sincere voting) (Reif and Schmitt 1980; Van der Eijk et al. 1996). At the same time, the ‘second-order’ nature of EP elections also allows governing party supporters to vote for another party to simply signal their discontent with the government (protest voting) (Reif and Schmitt 1980; Franklin 2006; Hix and Marsh 2007). Most scholars agree that ‘sincere voting’ leads to electoral gains for smaller or extremist parties, while ‘protest voting’ leads to electoral losses for governing or larger parties.


The ‘SOE’ model comprising these two types of voting (sincere voting and protest voting) has long been a dominant instrument through which voting behaviour in EP elections has been understood. Although this model has some limitations in entirely explaining voting behaviour in EP elections because it focuses solely on domestic political factors, it still remains an important model (Van der Eijk et al. 1996; Franklin 2006; Hix and Marsh 2007; Oh 2013; Han 2014; 2015). In particular, this model is useful in explaining PRR party support because this type of party is well known for its focus on specific issues or policies, such as immigration or Euroscepticism (sincere voting), and for its mobilisation of votes based on voters’ protest sentiments against the government and established political systems (protest voting).


EXPLAINING PRR PARTY SUPPORT IN THE 2014 EP ELECTIONS
PRR CONSISTENT VOTERS AND PRR SWITCHING VOTERS

It is widely known that smaller or extremist parties perform better in EP elections than in national elections. In particular, PRR parties have often scored impressive electoral results that they could hardly achieve in the national electoral arena. Their electoral success in EP elections can be attributed primarily to changing voting behaviour between the national and European electoral arenas (Hong 2015). More precisely, many voters who voted for parties other than PRR parties in previous national elections switched to PRR parties in the EP elections, resulting in massive electoral gains for those PRR parties (Hong 2015). This means that PRR party voters in EP elections are not homogeneous and so can be divided into two groups. On the one hand, there are voters who consistently cast their vote for PRR parties both in national and European elections, and on the other, there are those who voted for parties other than PRR parties but switched to PRR parties in EP elections. The former can be called PRR consistent voters, while the latter can be labelled PRR switching voters.4 Likewise, in the context of the 2014 EP elections, PRR party supporters could be classified into these two types of voters. It is expected that these two types of voters are quite distinct in nature and that between these two groups there exist significant differences regarding motivations for supporting a PRR party. Figure 1 presents these two types of PRR party voters.


MOTIVATIONS FOR PRR PARTY SUPPORT AND HYPOTHESES

What motivated European voters to support PRR parties in the 2014 EP elections? As mentioned earlier, this could be explained through the ‘SOE’ model, which is mainly composed of ‘sincere voting’ and ‘protest voting’ motivations. Given that this model has been criticised for being limited to only first-order domestic factors, this paper applies it not only to the domestic level but also to the European level. This attempt is consistent with the view of several scholars who have suggested that both ‘sincere voting’ and ‘protest voting’ might be extended to the European level (Hix and Marsh 2007; Hobolt and Spoon 2012). ‘Sincere voters’ are defined here as those voters who cast their vote for a party whose policies or issue positions are closest to their own, while ‘protest voters’ are those whose vote choices are driven by their desire to express their discontent with the given established political system. When considered simultaneously with the core ideological features that PRR parties display, these two voting behaviours (‘sincere voting’ and ‘protest voting’) could explain PRR party support in the EP elections.


As already discussed, PRR parties are characterised by the combination of ethno-nationalism/nativism, authoritarianism and populism (Rydgren 2004; 2005; Cole 2005; Mudde 2007; 2010). The rhetoric that PRR parties adopt is mainly based on these three fundamental ideological elements. First, the antiimmigrant discourse and Eurosceptic appeal for which PRR parties are best known originate from both ethno-nationalism and authoritarianism. Voters are thus expected to vote sincerely for PRR parties based on their simple policy preferences regarding either immigration issues or the issue of further European integration. In short, ‘sincere voting’ with regard to immigration issues or the issue of European integration could account for PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections. Second, the anti-political-establishment discourse that PRR parties often use is rooted in populism. Given that PRR parties have resorted to this discourse to mobilise votes based on voters’ protest sentiments, ‘protest voting’ based on populism could also be expected to explain PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections. Likewise, combining the two voting behaviours from the ‘SOE’ model with the main rhetoric of the PRR leads to the following five motivations for PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections: (1) sincere voting on immigration; (2) sincere voting on European integration; (3) protest voting against the government; (4) protest voting against established national politics; and (5) protest voting against established EU politics.


With regard to ‘sincere voting on immigration issues,’ it is well recognised that ‘ethno-nationalism’ or ‘nativism’ has led PRR parties to adopt anti-immigrant or xenophobic rhetoric and to mobilise voters based on anti-immigrant sentiments. By considering immigration either as a major cause of higher unemployment and/or rising crime rates, or as a severe threat to national culture and national identity, almost all PRR parties have adopted clearly anti-immigrant rhetoric. Even the UKIP included in the analysis of this paper also has adopted a very similar discourse regarding immigration (Ford et al. 2012; Lynch et al. 2012). ‘Authoritarianism’ also is closely linked to the anti-immigrant or xenophobic attitudes espoused by PRR parties. ‘Authoritarianism’ can be conceptualised as a predisposition for prioritising established religious and political authorities, as well as their values, and for attempting to maintain their conception of order and social cohesion (Altemeyer 1996; Feldman 2003; Stenner 2005; Hetherington and Weiler 2009). This leads authoritarians to identify strongly with established in-groups of which they are members and to simultaneously display hostility towards members of out-groups that can be perceived as a threat to the cohesion of those in-groups (Stenner 2005; Tillman 2013). This authoritarian predisposition naturally can be considered as shaping the anti-immigrant stance of the PRR. Given that the anti-immigrant stance of PRR parties stems from their solid ideological bases, voters might be expected to support PRR parties in the EP elections with the intention of expressing their agreement with these parties’ policies regarding immigration. This expectation leads to the first hypothesis of this paper.


H1 (Sincere voting on immigration issues):


The stronger is the hostility of voters towards immigration, the more likely they are to vote for a PRR party in EP elections.



The nationalist ideology underlying the PRR is also intimately related to these parties’ Eurosceptic position. PRR parties adopt a critical Eurosceptic discourse on the grounds that European integration threatens the autonomy, unity, and identity of the nation-state (Halikiopoulou et al. 2012). This position can be easily understood when considering the core principle of nationalism, which emphasizes congruence between political and national units (Gellner 1983; Freeden 1998; Mudde 2007). Through the lens of nationalism, PRR parties perceive that European integration would erode the cultural homogeneity of the nation-state. Similarly, authoritarianism, one of the core ideological elements of the PRR, is also believed to inform negative attitudes towards the EU (Tillman 2013). In the view of authoritarians, European integration threatens established political authorities, particularly traditional nation-states, by undermining the sovereignty of the member states and strengthening the political power of EU institutions. Moreover, intra-EU migration, which is a core principle of European integration, is seen as endangering the social cohesion that authoritarianism prioritises over individual autonomy (Tillman 2013).


As such, the Eurosceptic rhetoric of PRR parties is rooted in their ideological underpinnings, which leads us to expect Europeans to cast their ballots for PRR parties based on a sincere desire to show their opposition to European integration. Admittedly, it has often been suggested that the Eurosceptic vote does not adequately explain the vote choice for PRR parties in the first-order national elections because European issues have little salience in the national political arena (Hix 1999; Mair 2000). However, this would not necessarily be the case for EP elections that relate to European integration. This brings us to the second hypothesis regarding sincere voting on the European integration issue. The concept of ‘sincere voting,’ which has long focused exclusively on domestic political factors, is here extended to the European level.


H2 (Sincere voting on the European integration issue):


The stronger is the opposition of voters to European integration, the more likely they are to vote for PRR parties in EP elections.



PRR party support based on populism could be considered as ‘expressive or protest voting’ because PRR parties often mobilise voters based on their protest sentiments against established or mainstream politics. This populist protest voting, when applied to the context of EP elections, can be divided into three types. The first is protest voting with the intention to signal discontent with the government or a governing party. According to the ‘SOE’ theory, the secondorder nature of EP elections often leads voters, particularly governing party supporters, to vote for parties other than the governing party to simply signal their dissatisfaction with the government (Reif and Schmitt 1980; Reif 1984; Hix and Marsh 2007). This explanation could be used to explain PRR party support in EP elections. The second is protest voting against established or mainstream politics. This notion of protest voting is mainly suggested in the literature on PRR parties. Given that the PRR is first and foremost known for its anti-political-establishment positions (Schedler 1996; Ignazi 2003; Rydgren 2004; 2005; Mudde 2007; Arter 2010), voters could be expected to vote for PRR parties to display their discontent with established or mainstream domestic politics. Third, anti-political-establishment protest voting could also be extended to the European level. Since the intensification of European integration, the ‘democratic deficit’ problem has been consistently raised among scholars (Weiler et al. 1995; Majone 1998; Moravcsik 1998; Siedentop 2000). The EU, which was been established by mainstream political forces, has often been criticised for the undemocratic nature of its institutions: the Commission is excessively bureaucratic and its operating procedures obscure (Magnette 2001); the Council is the only legislature and it decisions are made in secret primarily by mainstream national political actors; and, the EP is seen as incapable of responding to the needs and demands of European citizens (Williams 1991; Lodge 1994). Considering that the EU is the political space in which established or mainstream political actors dominate, discontent with the established political system of the EU could also lead to PRR party support in EP elections.


The following three hypotheses could thus be drawn from the reasoning regarding these three types of protest voting (protest against government, protest against established national politics and protest against established EU politics).


H3 (Protest voting against government):


The stronger is the voters’ discontent with the government, the more likely they are to vote for PRR parties in EP elections.



H4 (Protest voting against established national politics):


The stronger is the voters’ discontent with established national politics, the more likely they are to vote for PRR parties in EP elections.



H5 (Protest voting against established EU politics):


The stronger is the voters’ discontent with established EU politics, the more likely they are to vote for PRR parties in EP elections.


DATA AND METHODS

To understand how PRR parties achieved such impressive results in the 2014 EP elections, this paper analyses PRR party support across seven Western European countries where this type of party was particularly successful in 2014: Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Finland, Great Britain, and Sweden. In these seven countries, PRR parties gained more than 10 percent of the vote in 2014. In this analysis, PRR voters are those who voted for one of the following parties in the 2014 EP elections: the BZÖ (Alliance of the Future of Austria) and the FPÖ (People’s Party of Austria) in Austria, the DF (Danish People’s Party) in Denmark, the PVV (Party for Freedom) in the Netherlands, the FN (National Front) in France, the PS (True Finns) in Finland, the UKIP (UK Independence Party) in Britain, and the SD (Swedish Democrats) in Sweden. The analysis will then be restricted to three of these seven countries: Austria, Denmark and France. In these three countries, parties that were considered to be the epitome of the PRR, such as the FPÖ, the DF and the FN, already had been particularly well established in each of their national party systems. The PRR parties in these three countries were exceptionally successful in 2014, receiving more than 20 percent of the vote. Table 1 presents the PRR parties included in the analysis of this paper. To test the five hypotheses formulated earlier, this paper uses data from the EES 2014 Voter Study.


Because this study is interested in identifying the motivations leading European voters to support PRR parties over any other type of party, those who did not vote in the 2014 EP elections are excluded from the analyses. This enables us first to classify voters in the 2014 EP elections into two categories: those who voted for a PRR party (PRR voters) and those who voted for a party other than a PRR party (non-PRR voters). However, as discussed earlier, given that PRR party voters in EP elections are not necessarily a homogeneous group, especially when we take into account their voting behaviour in previous national elections, these voters might also be divided into two different groups: those who voted for a PRR party both in the national and European elections (PRR consistent voters) and those who voted for a party other than a PRR party in national parliament elections but switched to a PRR party in the EP elections (PRR switching voters). In this way, voters in EP elections could be classified into three categories: non-PRR voters, PRR consistent voters, and PRR switching voters.


Because voters in the 2014 EP elections can be classified in these two ways, the analyses are also carried out in two stages. First, when voters were divided into two groups (non-PRR voters and PRR voters), the dependent variable then was whether a voter supported a PRR party or voted for a party other than a PRR party in the 2014 EP elections. This dependent variable was constructed using the question item regarding vote choice in the 2014 EP elections (QP2), coded ‘1’ if voters voted for one of the eight PRR parties in the 2014 EP elections and coded ‘0’ if voters cast their vote for a party other than one of these eight parties. Because this variable is dichotomous, this paper had recourse to the logistic regression analysis method. Second, as explained above, voters can also be categorised into three groups (non-PRR voters, PRR consistent voters, and PRR switching voters). In this case, the dependent variable was whether a voter was consistent in voting for a PRR party in both the national and European elections, voted for a PRR party only in the EP elections, or voted for a party other than a PRR party in the EP elections. This dependent variable was constructed using the following two survey items: the questions regarding vote choice in the previous national election (QPP5) and in the 2014 EP elections (QP2). After dividing vote choices in both the national and European elections into two categories (non-PRR voters and PRR voters), I created a trichotomous categorical variable. Because this dependent variable consists of three categories, the multinomial logistic regression method was used to identify motivations for PRR party support.


To assess the impact of ‘sincere voting on immigration,’ this paper used a variable representing the position of European voters on immigration. To capture their position on immigration, this paper employed the survey item in which respondents were asked to indicate whether they were in favour of, or opposed to, restrictive immigration policy (QPP17-6). The minimum value (1) of this variable indicated that they were strongly hostile to immigration, whereas the maximum value (11) represented a very strongly favourable position on immigration. Similarly, to test the effects of ‘sincere voting on European integration,’ a variable representing the positions of European voters on further European integration was used (QPP18), in which a maximum value (11) indicated a very high level of support for further European integration.


To evaluate the effect of ‘protest voting against established national politics,’ a variable representing voters’ distrust in established national political systems was created. This was performed by simultaneously considering the following two question items from the survey: voters’ level of distrust in their national parliaments (QPP9-1) and voters’ perceptions of whether their national parliaments took the concerns of citizens into consideration (QPP9-2). A new seven-point scale variable was then generated, coded ‘2’ (minimum value) if voters’ distrust was at the lowest level and ‘8’ (maximum value) if their distrust was at the highest level. A similar method was applied to construct a variable that was used to test the effects of ‘protest voting against established EU politics.’ A variable measuring distrust in the EU political system was created using the following two survey items: voters’ distrust in EU institutions (QP6-2) and voters’ perceptions regarding whether the EP takes into consideration the concerns of European citizens (QP6-4). The maximum value of this new variable (8) represents voters’ strongest level of distrust in the established EU political system. To explore the impact of ‘protest voting against the government,’ this paper had recourse to a survey item in which respondents were asked to indicate whether they approved or disapproved of their government’s performance to date (QPP20-1). This binary variable was then recoded so that the value ‘0’ represented voters’ trust in government performance and the value ‘1’ to indicate their distrust in government. With regard to control variables, this paper included indicators such as gender, voters’ self-placement on a left-right ideological scale, and their social level.


EMPIRICAL RESULTS

To explore the motivations driving PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections, this study conducted the analyses in two stages. First, this paper tested the five hypotheses by using the dependent variable that is composed of two categories of voters (non-PRR voters and PRR voters). A logistic regression model was thus estimated for seven Western European countries, as well as for the three of those countries where PRR parties were successful at both the national and supranational (EU) levels. In the second stage, assuming that PRR voters in the EP elections were not homogeneous and that they could further be divided into two groups, this paper used the dependent variable consisting of three categories (non-PRR voters, PRR consistent voters and PRR switching voters). A multinomial logistic regression model was thus estimated to compare the strength of the motivations among these three categories of voters. To interpret the effects of each of the motivations, this paper mainly relied on the predicted probabilities.


NON-PRR VOTERS VERSUS PRR VOTERS

To understand why European citizens voted for PRR parties in the 2014 EP elections, this paper first tested the five hypotheses using the dichotomous dependent variable. Table 2 reports the results from the three analysis models for the seven Western European countries. Model 1 tests exclusively the effects of domestic factors while Model 2 includes only European factors. Model 3 integrates both domestic and European factors.


Looking at the results of the analysis for the integrated model (Model 3), all five motivations (‘sincere voting on immigration,’ ‘sincere voting on European integration,’ ‘protest voting against government,’ ‘protest voting against national established politics,’ and ‘protest voting against EU established politics’) proved to be statistically significant, lending support to all five hypotheses. However, we can find some differences in the relative strength among these motivations when calculating the change in the predicted probability of voting for a PRR party for each motivation (see Table 3).


A comparison of the size of the marginal effects for each of the motivations reveals that ‘protest voting against EU established politics’ has the strongest effect on PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections. As Table 3 shows, holding all other variables at their means, the probability of voting for a PRR party is 6% for voters whose distrust in established EU politics is at the lowest level, whereas this percentage increases to 26% for those whose level of distrust is at the highest level. Judging from the size of the marginal effects, ‘protest voting against established EU politics’ (20%) is followed by, in descending order of importance, ‘sincere voting on immigration’ (16%), ‘sincere voting on European integration’ (11%), ‘protest voting against established national politics’ (9%), and ‘protest voting against government’ (5%). This comparison shows clearly that, although all the motivations proved to be important in these seven countries, the effects of European factors and the immigration issue were particularly strong with regard to PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections. In contrast, ‘protest voting against government’ had a smaller effect than the other four motivations.


Three similar analysis models were also estimated for the three Western European countries singled out for special examination. Table 4 shows the results from these three analyses. From the results for the integrated model (Model 3), we can observe similar but somewhat distinct findings in the three countries in which PRR parties received more than 20 percent of the vote in 2014 (Austria, Denmark and France). First, as shown in Table 4, neither ‘protest voting against government’ nor ‘protest voting against established national politics’ had any statistically significant effect, rejecting the hypotheses concerning these two motivations (H3 and H4). When comparing the marginal effects for the other three motivations, the two most important motives were ‘protest voting against established EU politics’ and ‘sincere voting on European integration.’ In particular, as shown in Table 5, the effect of ‘protest voting against established EU politics’ was very strong; holding all other variables constant, a change from the minimum to the maximum values increased the probability of supporting a PRR party from 10% to 40%. Similarly, this probability was 13% for voters who were in favour of further European integration, whereas it jumped to 27% for those who were hostile to further European integration. ‘Sincere voting on immigration’ was also important in the voting behaviour of PRR voters in 2014. It is noteworthy that, even excluding the British case in which the UKIP is well known for its emphasis on European issues, European factors had a very strong impact on PRR party support in all three countries. At the same time, the non-significance of ‘protest voting against established national politics’ suggests that it is not only those who are dissatisfied with established or mainstream politics that are inclined to support the PRR in these three countries.


The most notable finding from these two analyses is the importance of European factors in the vote choice of PRR voters in the 2014 EP elections. As discussed above, European considerations, whether in the context of protest voting or in the context of sincere voting, mattered with regard to PRR party support in the EP elections. This finding, although it does not completely contradict the ‘SOE’ theory that focuses on domestic factors, at least suggests that the ‘SOE’ theory has some limitations in fully explaining the voting behaviour of PRR voters in EP elections, given the relatively weak effect of ‘protest voting against government’ in the seven countries or the non-significance of this motivation in the three countries.


PRR CONSISTENT VOTERS VERSUS PRR SWITCHING VOTERS

European elections have long been an occasion in which voters who voted for parties other than a PRR party in previous national elections could switch to the PRR party, thus suggesting the existence of two types of PRR voters: PRR consistent voters and PRR switching voters. Given that these two types of PRR voters in EP elections are considered to be heterogeneous, they are accordingly expected to be driven by different motivations in their choices to vote for a PRR party. To compare these two types of PRR voters with regard to their PRR party support, this paper tests the five hypotheses using the trichotomous categorical dependent variable. First estimated is the multinomial logistic regression model for the seven countries (see Table 6 for the results). Then, estimates were made using the same model for the sample that was restricted to voters from the three countries under special consideration (see Table 8 for the results).


The results of the analysis of the seven countries (see Table 6) show that, for PRR consistent voters, all five motivations tested in the model have statistically significant effects in the seven countries. Based on the marginal effects of each of the motives shown in Table 7, ‘protest voting against established EU politics’ (9%) and ‘protest voting against established national politics’ (8%) have the strongest effects on PRR party support. These were followed by ‘sincere voting on immigration’ (7%), which also was shown to be important. These findings indicate that PRR consistent voters were driven more by distrust in, or hostility towards, established politics at both the domestic and European levels. In contrast, the voting behaviour of PRR switching voters was different than that of PRR consistent voters. The most remarkable thing is that ‘protest voting against established national politics,’ which is an important motive for PRR consistent voters, is not at all statistically significant for PRR switching voters. When comparing the relative strength of each of the motivations, for PRR switching voters ‘protest voting against established EU politics’ (12%) and ‘sincere voting on European integration’ (8%) were the two most important drivers in explaining PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections. In other words, European factors, whether with regard to protest voting motivations or sincere voting motivations, proved to be very important in the voting behaviour of PRR switching voters. This indicates that the electoral surge of PRR parties observed in 2014 could be attributed to the voting behaviour of European citizens who switched to PRR parties in the European elections based on European considerations, whether through a protest voting motive or a sincere voting motive. The results of the analysis for the three countries (see Table 8) exhibit somewhat different, though overall similar, findings for the three countries.


First, concerning ‘protest voting against established national politics,’ this motivation is important for PRR consistent voters, while it does not have any statistical significance for PRR switching voters. This confirms once again that PRR consistent voters were driven by an anti-political-establishment sentiment with regard to their PRR party support. Second, European concerns were particularly important for PRR switching voters. For PRR switching voters, both ‘protest voting against established EU politics’ and ‘sincere voting on European integration’ were the two strongest motives, confirming once again the importance of European factors in the voting behaviour of PRR switching voters. In contrast, for PRR consistent voters, while ‘protest voting against established EU politics’ was very important, ‘sincere voting on European integration’ was not at all statistically significant. It emerges from these results that PRR consistent voters and PRR switching voters were not homogeneous and were driven by different motives in the 2014 EP elections. While PRR consistent voters were mainly driven by their distrust in established politics, both on the national and European levels, PRR switching voters were primarily motivated by European considerations, either with the intention of protest voting or with the intention of sincere voting.


The evidence from these analyses implies that although these two groups of voters (PRR consistent voters and PRR switching voters) made identical vote choices in the 2014 EP elections by voting for a PRR party, they were different in nature from each other when closely examining their motivations for their PRR party support. As discussed above, unlike PRR consistent voters, PRR switching voters were not driven by their distrust of, or discontent with, established mainstream national politics. Rather, they were driven by European considerations when making their vote choices in the EP elections. From the results, it seems that PRR switching voters who contributed to the unprecedented surge of PRR parties in the 2014 EP elections were those who did not necessarily take an anti-political establishment stance at the national level. To some extent, this could alleviate concerns about possible successive electoral gains by PRR parties in the national electoral arena.


CONCLUSION

The unprecedented surge of PRR parties across Europe is one of the most striking outcomes of the 2014 EP elections. To understand this phenomenon, this paper attempted to identify the motivations underlying the vote choices of PRR party voters by simultaneously considering the three core ideologies of PRR parties (ethno-nationalism, authoritarianism and populism) and the two types of voting behaviour in EP elections (sincere voting and protest voting). At the same time, assuming that PRR party voters in EP elections could not be homogeneous when taking into consideration their vote choices in previous national parliament elections, this study also examined the extent to which the motivations of PRR party support differed between the two types of PRR voters in EP elections (PRR consistent voters and PRR switching voters). Using data from the EES 2014 Voter Study, this paper analysed the voting behaviour of PRR voters in Western European countries. The results of the analysis yielded several important findings.


First, overall the most important motive in PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections was ‘protest voting against established EU politics.’ This motivation had by far the strongest effect on PRR party support in seven countries, as well as in the three countries singled out for special consideration. Similarly, the effect of ‘sincere voting on European integration’ was also large and important in explaining PRR party support in 2014. This means that European considerations, whether regarding protest voting motivations or sincere voting motivations, mattered greatly in PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections. These results can be considered to support the media reports that have attributed the surge of the PRR to the Eurosceptic vote in the immediate aftermath of the elections. This finding is noteworthy because it shows some of the limitations of relying too heavily on the SOE theory to fully explain voting behaviour in EP elections. This implies that voting behaviour in the European electoral arena has now changed.


Second, although they made identical vote choices in the 2014 EP elections by choosing a PRR party, PRR voters were not homogeneous in nature when close examination was made of their motivations for supporting PRR parties. The results demonstrated that the motivations underlying PRR party support differed considerably between PRR consistent voters and PRR switching voters. For instance, the ‘protest against established national politics’ motivation, while of great importance to the vote choice of PRR consistent voters, did not have any statistical significance for PRR switching voters. This means that PRR switching voters, in contrast to PRR consistent voters, were not driven by anti-politicalestablishment sentiments based on populist ideology. On the contrary, PRR switching voters were primarily motivated by European concerns with regard to both protest and sincere voting intentions. The results allow us to partially predict the future electoral fortunes of PRR parties in the national political arena. From the evidence that PRR switching voters are mainly driven by their concerns regarding European matters, and not by their fundamental distrust of established politics, their support for a PRR party seems unlikely to persist in subsequent national elections unless European issues become increasingly salient in the national political arena. However, if European integration gains much traction domestically, the surge of PRR parties might be extended even to the national level.


Third, it is also noteworthy that ‘sincere voting on immigration’ had a considerable effect on PRR party support in the EP elections. Given that ethnonationalism or xenophobia was one of the core ideologies that underlie the PRR, it was not surprising that the position of voters on immigration was an important indicator explaining PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections. It should nevertheless be noted that immigration issues could also be understood in the context of European integration. Considering that several problems relating to immigration are now perceived to some extent as stemming from the principle of free movement within the EU, a PRR voter who is motivated by ‘sincere voting on immigration’ could be driven by European considerations. This indicates once again the importance of European factors in the voting behaviour of PRR voters in the 2014 EP elections.


What stood out most in the results was that PRR party voters were driven more by European concerns with regard to their PRR party support in the 2014 EP elections and that PRR voters behaved differently according to their vote choices in the previous national parliamentary election. This conclusion helps in understanding more clearly why the PRR parties in some countries had unparalleled success in the 2014 EP elections. Nevertheless, this paper has some limitations with regard to fully explaining the motivations of PRR voters across EU member states, as the analysis was restricted to only those countries in which PRR parties received more than 10 percent of the vote. As discussed earlier, not all PRR parties achieved electoral success in the 2014 EP elections. In some countries, PRR parties experienced electoral defeat. Therefore, further study is needed to understand why the electoral performances of PRR parties varied across Europe in 2014 and what differences were there in the motivations underlying PRR party support across Europe.


Figures
Fig. 1. Categorisation of Voters in the 2014 EP Elections
Tables
Table. 1. Electoral Results of PRR Parties Included in the Analysis
Table. 2. Results for Logistic Regression Models of PRR Party Support (7 Countries)
Table. 3. Predicted Probabilities of PRR Party Support (7 Countries)
Table. 4. Results for Logistic Regression Models of PRR Party Support (3 Countries)
Table. 5. Predicted Probabilities of PRR Party Support (3 Countries)
Table. 6. Results for Multinomial Logistic Models of PRR Party Support (7 Countries)
Table. 7. Predicted Probabilities of PRR Party Support (7 Countries)
Table. 8. Results for Multinomial Logistic Models of PRR Party Support (3 Countries)
Footnotes
1)In this paper, the term ‘populist radical right (PRR) party’ is used to designate right-wing populist parties. Although there is disagreement among scholars as to whether some parties, such as UKIP or True Finns, are populist radical right, this paper includes them in this category of parties given that a few scholars consider them PRR based on their core ideological features (Abedi and Lundberg 2009; Aarter 2010).
2)To designate these newly-founded extreme right parties, scholars use different terms such as ‘extreme right party,’ ‘radical right-wing party,’ ‘populist right-wing party,’ ‘new right party,’ ‘populist radical right party,’ and ‘far right party.’ This confusion often renders it difficult to clearly understand the phenomenon and to generalise research findings because studies utilising different terms and definitions could be referring to a different group of parties.
3)As the concept of ‘expressive strategic voting’ is almost identical to that of ‘protest voting,’ this paper chooses to use the term ‘protest voting’ to designate the motivation of not voting for the most preferred party with the intention of sending a message or expressing discontent to the voter’s own preferred party.
4)Similarly, Ford et al. (2012) distinguish between two types of UKIP voters. According to the authors, ‘core UKIP voters’ are those who support UKIP in all elections, while ‘strategic UKIP voters’ are those who vote for the UKIP only in EP elections.
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15-1 (April 2017)