How can we account for the variations in the rise of far-right parties across Europe? What might this mean for our theories of social cleavages?

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In this article I will critically analyse the various explanations for the recent rise in extreme right parties (ERP). The main focus of my argument will be on the relationship between the level of immigration into a country and the level of
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   1 POL40540 Comparative European Politics Dr. Niamh Hardiman and Dr. Erin Baumann 13203862 25/4/14   2 How can we account for the variations in the rise of far-right parties across Europe? What might this mean for our theories of social cleavages? The rise of extreme right parties (ERPs) is not a recent phenomenon, however it has been the subject of some debate as constructing a model to account for the variations in the rise of these parties throughout Europe has been quite troublesome. In this article I will critically analyse the various explanations for the recent rise in ERPs. To account for the variations in the rise of ERPs across Europe one must first look at how ERPs become legitimate contenders in national elections. To explain the rise of ERPs I will look towards social factors, economic factors and the role of the media to account for this phenomenon. The main focus of my argument will be on the relationship between the level of immigration into a country and the level of unemployment as well as issue ownership and agenda-setting theory to  justify the rise in support for these ERPs and ultimately as an explanation for why there exists variations in the rise of ERPs. I will also draw attention to the fact that the theories that can account for the rise in ERPs in Western Europe cannot be held accountable for similar trends in Central and Eastern Europe. The case of Central and Eastern Europe has developed separately from Western Europe and so has also developed its own unique reasons for the presence on ERPs in the area. An overarching focus of this article is on the theories of social cleavages which seem to be changing drastically in recent times. It would be my intention to show that the reasons for the rise in ERP legitimacy in Western Europe cannot hold true for Central and Eastern Europe as both areas have significant differences in social cleavages which can account for the variations in the rise of ERPs. ERPs in Western Europe One of the most obvious explanations for the rise of ERPs throughout Europe is the rise in immigration. One would imagine that the rise in the number of immigrants in a state would lead to a rise the support for ERPs. The expansion of the E.U. has brought with it a rise in the level of potential immigrants who can legally enter and work in a state. With a rising level of immigration, the majority population could increasingly see immigrants as a threat to their traditional privileges and, consequently, becomes more hostile to the minority group. This theory is called the "Racial Threat" Hypothesis. (Bowyer, 2008) This hypothesis conjures up some rather interesting results when tested. A study of support for the British National   3 Party (BNP) showed that while the BNP received the most support from districts with large ethnic minorities (particularly Pakistani and Bangladeshi), its strength seemed to be concentrated in smaller wards where there existed small enclaves of white residents in ethnically diverse cities. Another interesting fact that was discovered during this study was that neighbourhoods with a relatively large black population tended to display more positive attitudes towards immigrants and minorities than neighbourhoods that had large minorities of Pakistani or Bangladeshi residents. (Bowyer, 2008) This shows that voters for ERPs hold more prejudices towards certain minorities or ethnic groups than others. Bowyer's argument is continued by Jesuit et al (2009) who claims that there is a general acceptance of the theory that voters for ERPs are primarily motivated by 'expressive' or 'ideational' concerns, whereby immigration is seen as hostile to the national culture. Interestingly however, the research conducted by Jesuit et al (2009) does not support this view, at a regional level at least. Their research shows that an increase in immigration does not automatically lead to a direct increase in support for ERPs. It has quickly become apparent that the obvious solutions to explain a rise in ERPs are not robust enough to form a universally applicable hypothesis to account for this phenomenon. Due to the dismissal of the seemingly obvious reasons for increased support for ERPs we shall quickly move on to hypotheses that deal with multiple, more complex, issues. In an attempt to explain the growing legitimacy of ERPs throughout Europe, Boomsgaarden and Vliegenthart (2007) conducted a study in the Netherlands from 1990-2002. They believed that the media had a significant role to play in the support that anti-immigrant parties were receiving. Their study assesses the power of news content as an explanatory factor for the rise in support for ERPs, controlling for the employment rate, levels of immigration and leadership of the far-right parties in the Netherlands. The underlying beliefs of their study can be summed up in the following hypotheses: Hypotheses 1:  The unemployment rate positively influences support for anti- immigrant populist parties only in times when immigration is high. Unemployment - not interacting with immigration levels - is not significantly related to anti-immigrant party support Hypotheses 2:  The level of immigration is positively and significantly related to support for anti-immigration parties.   4 Hypotheses 3:  The entrance of Fortuyn into the political system is positively related and his disappearance after his assassination is negatively related to support for anti- immigrant parties. Hypotheses 4a:  The salience of stories about immigration issues is significantly and positively related to support for ERPs. Hypotheses 4b:  The salience of stories about the economy in an immigration frame is significantly and positively related to support for ERPs. For an analysis of their study they relied on Box-Jenkins transfer modelling; Table 1below. In the first step they tested the univariate ARIMA model (model A), adding the Forytuyn variables (model B), immigration, unemployment and the interaction between the two (model C) and finally their media variables (model D). Adding the independent varibles step by step allows one, not only to look at the effect of the independent variables, but also at the explanatory power of the different models (Residuals Means Square) as well as their goodness of fit (Akaike Info Criterion). (Boomsgaarden and Vliegenthart, 2007) As shown below, hypotheses 1 is partly confirmed. While Boomsgaarden and Vliegenthart show that the unemployment rate does indeed drum up support for ERPs at times when immigration is high, they also, inadvertently, show that unemployment has a significantly negative effect on support for anti-immigrant populist parties when immigration levels remain low. Hypotheses 2, which states that the level of immigration is positively related to support for anti-immigration parties, is confirmed. This finding does seems to contradict the findings of Jesuit et al (2009) who did not find a significant link between immigration and support for ERPs. However, the explanatory value of Boomsgaarden's and Vliegenthart's model improves, with the Residual Means Square (RMS) decreasing from 40.06 to 34.65 and the Akaike Info Criterion (AIC) indicating a better goodness of fit. The leadership hypotheses (hypotheses 3) stems from the belief that ERPs benefit from the public believing that the party has a strong, charismatic leader. Their research confirms this hypotheses. The entrance of Fortuyn had an immediate effect of a 225% increase in support for anti-immigrant and populist parties. The effect of Fortuyn's assassination was a drop in support for his party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn, of 70%. Bowyer (2008) has also pointed out the strong leadership qualities of Nick Griffin in the BNP to account for the relative ERP success in the UK. The RMS decreases from 43.81 to 40.06 and a slightly better model fit is indicated by the AIC, thus confirming the hypothesis about the effects of Fortuyn's leadership.   5 Table 1 Influence of Fortuyn, economy, immigration and media on anti-immigrant populist party support, period 1990-2002 Source: (Boomsgaarden and Vliegenthart, 2007) Note: Variables are made stationary by logging and differencing. *p < 0.10; **p < 0.05; ***p < 0.01 (One-tailed); ~ variable not included in model. While these results are fascinating within themselves, and do go a long way in establishing the reasons for increasing support for ERPs, I believe the most intriguing answer to the puzzle is the role of the news media play in generating support for ERPs. Boomsgaarden and Vliegenthart conducted an impressive content analysis of the five most-read Dutch newspapers; NRC Handelsblad (1990-2002), Algemeen Dagblad (1992-2002), de Volkskrant (1995-2002), Trouw (1992-2002) and the Telegraaf (1998-2002). Their search of these newspapers result in a field of 168,240 articles, of which 10,272 were later excluded as they did not actually deal with immigration issues. Salience was operationalized by calculating a visibility score for all the articles. The score was weighted by the importance of the article, and the position of the search term within the article. The importance of the article was assumed to be proportional to the circulation number of the newspaper. The results of this extensive study confirms both hypotheses 4a and 4b. Salience of immigration issues and economic issues in an immigration frame in the news positively effects support for ERPs. Model 1A Model 1B Model 1C Model 1D Coefficient t - value Coefficient t - value Coefficient t - value Coefficient t - vaue Moving Average (t - 1) -0.37*** -4.93 -0.46*** -5.98 -0.37*** -4.35 -0.39*** -4.66 Rise Fortuyn ~ 1.18*** 2.41 0.76* 1.53 0.79* 1.6 Dead Fortuyn (t -4) ~ -1.18*** -2.56 -1.16*** -2.47 -1.09*** -2.36 Immigration (t - 1) ~ ~ 0.5** 1.95 0.73*** 2.7 Unemployment (t - 2) ~ ~ -3.59*** -3.03 -3.51*** -2.96 Unemployment x Immigration (t - 7) ~ ~ 0.33*** 2.44 0.29** 2.14 News on Immigration (t - 3) ~ ~ ~ 0.38** 1.89 News on Economy (t - 1) ~ ~ ~ 0.4* 1.69 RMS 43.81 40.06 34.65 33.25 Akaike Info Criterion (N = 147) -1.217 -1.262 -1.363 -1.377 Ljung - Box Q (df = 20) 18.5 18.21 19.28 20.21 N 155 151 147 147
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