Proportional Representation and Right-Wing Populism: Evidence from Electoral System Change in Europe
28 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2021
Date Written: March 1, 2021
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: Suggested Citation