Decomposing the Rise of the Populist Radical Right
72 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2022 Last revised: 15 Nov 2022
Date Written: November 14, 2022
Support for populist radical right parties in Europe has dramatically increased in the twenty-first century. We decompose the rise of the populist radical right between 2005 and 2020 into four components: changes in party positions, changes in voter attributes (demographics and opinions), changes in voters' priorities, and a residual. We merge two wide data sets on party positions and voter attributes and estimate voter priorities using a probabilistic voting model. Voter priorities determine the weights voters place on different party positions, given their attributes. We find that shifts in party positions and changes in voter attributes explain only a negligible part of the rise of populist radical right parties. The primary driver behind the success of these parties lies in voters' changing priorities. Particularly, voters are less likely to decide which party to support based on parties' economic positions. Instead, voters---mainly older, non-unionized, low-educated men---increasingly prioritize nationalist cultural issues. This allows populist radical right parties to tap into a pre-existing reservoir of culturally conservative voters.
Keywords: populism, decomposition, party positions, voter priorities, voting weights, radical right, salience
JEL Classification: P00, D7, O52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation