I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts, links can be found at the bottom of this article.
The factors that seem to have spiked the rise in popularity for right-wing according to previous research: (1) prosperity in a country, (2) socio-economic deprivation, (3) instilling fear through framing in the media by the right, (4) distrusting the current political system, (5) economic and cultural concerns over immigration, and (6) Euroscepticism (summarized in figure 1, see appendix).
In terms of (1) prosperity, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands are all among the highest in regards to GDP per capita (Eurostat, 2016). In all of these three countries right-wing politicians are gaining more popularity, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Norbert Hofer in Austria, and Frauke Petry in Germany. These occurrences fit with results found by Lucassen et al (2012), as explained earlier, countries high in prosperity could view immigrants as a threat. Because they perceive the newcomers to possibly change the situation from which they currently benefit. Though prosperity on country-level has been linked to far-right preferences, Werts et al (2012) looked at individual (2) socio-economic deprivation. These researchers have also found a link between right-wing voting behavior and this particular deprivation.
Moreover, a factor that has influenced the surge in popularity for right-wing parties is (3) media framing, as implied by Yılmaz (2012). The major issues used in their framing techniques seem to be immigration and Euroscepticism. Nigel Farage of the right-wing United Kingdom Independent Party’s (UKIP) caused an uproar in the media by unveiling a poster that displays a stream non-white immigrants. The poster has two different slogans on it: ‘Breaking point: the EU has failed us all’ and ‘we must break free from the EU and take back our country’. So both aforementioned issues are being conveyed through the poster.
A prime example of (4) distrusting the current political system would be the sudden advocation of anti-establishment ideas. These views were shared by Donald Trump in his campaign for presidency in the USA during 2015 and 2016. At a rally in Virginia he expressed the following sentiment: “we are going to replace our failed and corrupt establishment with a new government that serves you, your family, and your country”. However, the same anti-establishment rhetoric is gaining ground in Europe. In particular, a movement in Italy referred to as Movimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement), who claim to be anti-establishment.
One of the attributes all articles seem to mention is (5) the fear of immigrants coming to Europe. With the wars going on in Syria, the amount of immigrants applying for asylum in Europe has increased over the last years (Asylum Statistics, 2016). There have been protests by the far-right in several European countries over refugee shelters (Huggler, 2016), which have turned into violent crashes. UKIP’s previous leader, Nigel Farage, has publicly indicated that he does not agree with the UK’s current immigration policies, in a speech during his party’s conference he stated: “this gets to the heart of the immigration policy that UKIP wants, we should not welcome foreign criminal gangs and we must deport those who have committed offences”.
Lastly, (6) Euroscepticism has not been going unnoticed after the referendum on ‘Brexit’ take took place June 23rd, 2016. On this day Great Britain decided that it would rather leave the European Union (EU) than remain. Other politicians from different EU member states have expressed their concern, discussing the possibility of revoking their membership. For instance, far-right politician Geert Wilders of the Partij van de Vrijheid (Freedom party) has called for a referendum in the Netherlands to leave the EU (Reuters, 2016). In an interview he explained his reasoning behind this statement: “we want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy”.
Taking all of the aforementioned research into consideration, it can be argued that several factors can contribute to a surge in support for right-wing parties in Europe. It is of importance to figure out what causes people to vote for a certain political ideology. It is not my place to argue which ideology is better, however it is essential to be aware of the support for political ideologies within a society. And extremism on both sides of the left-right spectrum could lead to divisions, which may not be beneficial to have a functioning society. To mention a contemporary example, after the 2016 United States Presidential Elections, the amount of verbal and physical attacks increased, targeting specific groups (Dearden, 2016), which seems to create a gaps between those groups. And in Europe, with Brexit as a starting point, it seems that more political parties are become unsatisfied with the unification through the European Union. Therefore it is crucial that all political parties, activists, and supporters stay in dialogue with one another, and not settle it through physical or verbal harassment. This means being aware of standpoints of each political division, and the implications of the policies they advocate.
I wrote a paper on this topic as part of a course during my Bachelor in psychology. It has been divided into 4 different posts.
Part 1: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
Part 2: What could have triggered the rise in popularity for right-wing parties in Europe?
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Lucassen, G., & Lubbers, M. (2012). Who fears what? Explaining far-right-wing preference in Europe by distinguishing perceived cultural and economic ethnic threats. Comparative Political Studies, 45(5), 547-574.
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Werts, H., Scheepers, P., & Lubbers, M. (2012). Euro-scepticism and radical right-wing voting in Europe, 2002–2008: Social cleavages, socio-political attitudes and contextual characteristics determining voting for the radical right. European Union Politics, 1465116512469287.
Yılmaz, F. (2012). Right-wing hegemony and immigration: How the populist far-right achieved hegemony through the immigration debate in Europe. Current sociology, 60(3), 368-381.