Proportional Representation and Right-Wing Populism: Evidence from Electoral System Change in Europe

28 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2021

See all articles by Michael Becher

Michael Becher

IE University

Irene Menendez Gonzalez

IE University

Daniel Stegmueller

Duke University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 1, 2021

Abstract

How much do electoral institutions matter for the rise of populist parties? Evidence on this question is mixed with some scholars arguing that the role of electoral rules is modest at best. This research note provides new evidence for the substantial impact of electoral system change. The United Kingdom's adoption of a proportional electoral system for European elections in 1999 provides a natural experiment to study the link between changing electoral institutions and the ascendancy of right-wing populist parties in the European electoral arena. We employ synthetic control and flexible difference-in-difference methods and estimate that the UK's electoral reform increased the vote share of right-wing populists by about 14 percentage points on average. Our results indicate that existing evidence focusing on marginal reforms may have underestimated the potential effect of electoral system change.

Keywords: populism, political institutions, electoral reform, European elections

JEL Classification: D02, D72

Suggested Citation

Becher, Michael and Menendez Gonzalez, Irene and Stegmueller, Daniel, Proportional Representation and Right-Wing Populism: Evidence from Electoral System Change in Europe (March 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3795175 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3795175

Michael Becher (Contact Author)

IE University ( email )

Calle Maria Molina 12
Madrid, 28006
Spain

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.ie.edu/university/about/faculty/michael-becher/

Irene Menendez Gonzalez

IE University ( email )

Castellón de la Plana 8
Madrid, 28006
Spain

Daniel Stegmueller

Duke University - Department of Political Science ( email )

140 Science Drive (Gross Hall), 2nd floor
Duke University Mailcode: 90204
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.duke.edu/stegmueller/

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