A reading list: populism, euroscepticism & foreign policy attitudes

A new winter term is rearing its head. Winter terms in Germany are … special. They regularly come with dreary weather and unpredictable commutes in the dark, and this year’s special offer includes a possibility of new Covid strains and just a chance of Armageddon.

But I’m really looking forward to the new reading class (my favourite form of academic teaching) that I have set up for a fresh bunch of MA students. I have updated my old course on populism, euroscepticism and foreign policy attitudes (which was more centred on Catherine De Vries’s then-new monograph). The new list includes even more recent journal articles, because this is what we want our MA students to be able to digest. Not everything on the list is necessarily 100 per cent brilliant, but everything is interesting and relevant. Plus: identifying weak(-ish) points in top-notch research is an important skill for students (at least that is what I think).

European union flags on Castle Street, Hull
European union flags on Castle Street, Hull by Ian S is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Here is the full list. Feel free to use or adapt it for your own courses, or just as a collection of potential starting points.

  • The structure of foreign policy attitudes: Gravelle, Timothy B., Jason Reifler, and Thomas J. Scotto. 2017. “The Structure of Foreign Policy Attitudes in Transatlantic Perspective. Comparing the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany.” European Journal of Political Research 56 (4): 757–76. doi:10.1111/1475-6765.12197.
  • Personality and foreign policy attitudes: Rathbun, Brian C., Joshua D. Kertzer, Jason Reifler, Paul Goren, and Thomas J. Scotto. 2016. “Taking Foreign Policy Personally: Personal Values and Foreign Policy Attitudes.” International Studies Quarterly 60 (1): 124–37. doi:10.1093/isq/sqv012.
  • Threat, fear, anger, and Russia: Kupatadze, A., and T. Zeitzoff. 2019. “In the Shadow of Conflict: How Emotions, Threat Perceptions and Victimization Influence Foreign Policy Attitudes.” British Journal of Political Science 51 (1): 181–202. doi:10.1017/s0007123418000479.
  • Public opinion and International Organisations: De Vries, Catherine E., Sara B. Hobolt, and Stefanie Walter. 2021. “Politicizing International Cooperation: The Mass Public, Political Entrepreneurs, and Political Opportunity Structures.” International Organization 75 (2): 306–32. doi:10.1017/s0020818320000491.
  • EU support and individual benefit: Gabel, Matthew. 1998. “Public Support for European Integration. An Empirical Test of Five Theories.” Journal of Politics 60: 333–54.
  • EU support and cultural threat: McLaren, Lauren M. 2002. “Public Support for the European Union: Cost/Benefit Analysis or Perceived Cultural Threat.” The Journal of Politics 64: 551–66.
  • Populism as an attitude: Akkerman, Agnes, Cas Mudde, and Andrej Zaslove. 2014. “How Populist Are the People? Measuring Populist Attitudes in Voters.” Comparative Political Studies 47 (9): 1324–53. doi:10.1177/0010414013512600.
  • Euroscepticism and voting for the Far Right: McDonnell, Duncan, and Annika Werner. 2018. “Differently Eurosceptic: Radical Right Populist Parties and Their Supporters.” Journal of European Public Policy, 1–18. doi:10.1080/13501763.2018.1561743. & Werts, Han, Peer Scheepers, and Marcel Lubbers. 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 14 (2): 183–205. doi:10.1177/1465116512469287.
  • (Il)Liberal-democratic attitudes and euroscepticism: Brug, Wouter van der, Sebastian Adrian Popa, Sara B Hobolt, and Hermann Schmitt. 2021. “Illiberal Democratic Attitudes and Support for the EU.” Politics 41 (4): 537–61. doi:10.1177/0263395720975970.
  • Generational effects, crises, and EU support: Lauterbach, Fabian, and Catherine E. De Vries. 2020. “Europe Belongs to the Young? Generational Differences in Public Opinion towards the European Union during the Eurozone Crisis.” Journal of European Public Policy 27 (2): 168–87. doi:10.1080/13501763.2019.1701533.
  • Brexit effects in other EU countries: Hobolt, Sara B., Sebastian Adrian Popa, Wouter van der Brug, and Hermann Schmitt. 2021. “The Brexit Deterrent? How Member State Exit Shapes Public Support for the European Union.” European Union Politics 23 (1): 100–119. doi:10.1177/14651165211032766.
  • Who in CEE would want to leave the EU: Gherghina, Sergiu, and Paul Tap. 2022. “Conservatism, Social Isolation and Political Context: Why East Europeans Would Leave the Eu in Exit Referendums.” International Political Science Review online first. doi:10.1177/01925121211061453.

Germany: the Identitarian Movement remains under surveillance

In 2016, Germany’s “Office for the Protection of the Constitution”, a.k.a. the spooks, put the German branch of the Identitarian Movement under surveillance. They are also listed in the Office’s yearly reports under the heading “right-wing extremist actors”.

Germany: the Identitarian Movement remains under surveillance 1

Germany being Germany, the IB in this country is organised as a registered association, which has taken the spooks to court over this issue. Because that, boys and girls, is the beauty of the rule of law: alleged enemies of the constitution can still sue the secret service over said allegation.

But the court (here: the local administrative court at Cologne, where the Office is based) has now decided that the Office was well within its rights, because the IB’s idea of an “ethno-cultural identity” is incompatible with the liberal-democratic principles of the Basic Law. Word, man.

The IB may still appeal against the ruling. More rule of law my follow. Here is a more detailed report (in German).

2022 Lower Saxony election: the AfD double their 2017 result

Lower Saxony just held the last of 2022’s four state elections. The result is mostly in line with the pre-election surveys: both the SPD and the CDU (which in this state formed the last remaining Grand coalition) lost a few points, but the SPD remained stronger overall and is perceived as the winner. The Left stood no chance, and the FDP may or may not have made it past the threshold. The Greens nearly (but not quite) doubled their result, and so did the AfD (compare the two artisanal blue circles in the graph).

To put this into perspective, the levels of infighting in the state party are spectacular even by AfD standards. In 2017, the party nearly failed to submit a slate of candidates and managed to get the prosecution service involved in their altercations with the authorities and amongst each others. The AfD eventually scraped past the threshold, but the party executive collapsed on election night. Subsequently, warring factions tried to organise separate party conferences in different locations. In the end, the federal leadership stepped in and appointed an acting state party executive, which unsurprisingly found (amongst other things) that money was missing from the bank. In 2020, three of the state MPs including the 2017 frontrunner candidate left the parliamentary party, which was subsequently dissolved. The 2021 and 2022 party conferences ended prematurely and in disarray.

2022 Lower Saxony election: the AfD double their 2017 result 2

And yet, the AfD just managed to get their best result in any western state since 2018 (compare this to the lousy results in North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland, and Schleswig-Holstein earlier this year). Even if the AfD in Lower Saxony has managed to set their house in order, this is unlikely to be the result of better discipline and stronger candidates alone. It rather points to some kind of recovery in national support that follows a long period of decline and stagnation, which set in even before Covid.

Grievances do not simply translate into far-right support – it’s usually a bit more nuanced than that. And yet, a vote share of 11 per cent in Lower Saxony suggests that the AfD must be benefitting from renewed worries about migration triggered by the war, alongside the new-ish worries about the war itself, about energy security, and about inflation. Whether this is temporary or whether the party will do well in the next round of western state elections (Bremen in May and Bavaria and Hesse later in 2023) remains to be seen.

Research on the Radical Right in Italy

It is Friday afternoon, and everyone is getting very excited about the Italian elections and the likely success of the far right. So am I. But something irks me.

For obvious reasons, Italy is a rather well-studied case of far right mobilisation. Also, obviously, much of the coverage in the media is focused on Meloni, in much the same way it used to be focused on Salvini and, in a time before yours, Berlusconi, which is a shame.

For the last French elections earlier this year, I pulled some relevant research from the bibliography. This time, I did something even lazier: I spun a thread from one year’s worth of the Bot’s relevant tweets. Three cheers for serendipity!

Where have all the True Finns gone (from the ESS)?

finnish flag, blue cross flag, finland

For people of a certain disposition, there are only two kinds of respondents: those who vote for the far right (recode to 1) and everyone else (recode to 0). Which is why, looking at the fresh (round 10, version 1.2) European Social Survey data from Finnland, I tried to recode those with a value of 4 (Perussuomalaiset (yes, I looked that one up, then copy/pasted it to make sure) or Finns Party, formerly known as True Finns) to 1.

Now picture my shocked face when this gave me precisely zero far-right Finns. Was this political correctness gone mad? The Perussuomalaiset won 17.5 per cent of the vote in 2019, making them the second strongest party in parliament. Even if there was serious underreporting, it is impossible that they disappear completely from a sample the size of the Finnish ESS. However, there is a group of people in the data, roughly equivalent to the size of the Finns Party’s electorate, who claim to have voted for the Citizens’ Party – an organisation that failed to win a single seat in 2019.

You see where this is heading. The ESS is a marvel, and its data quality remains something to behold. Nonetheless, mistakes may happen even here. The good people at the ESS data archive have been notified, and they agree that this looks somewhat odd. Together with the team in Finnland, they will find out what happened. Unless there really was a freakish, supermassive sampling error, the coding of the variables will be corrected eventually. All will be well again.

And this, boys and girls, is why we have versioning and hashes.

Wähler extrem rechter Parteien und Methoden zu ihrer Erforschung: zwei neue Arbeitspapiere

files, paper, office

Vor sechs Jahren erschien die zweite Auflage des “Handbuch Rechtsextremismus” von Virchow et al., zu dem ich mich damals etwas kritisch geäußert habe. Umso mehr freue ich mich, dass ich bei neu konzipierten dritten Auflage dabei sein darf. Das Handbuch soll im nächsten Jahr erscheinen. In der Vergangenheit haben sich solche Aussagen häufig als überoptimistisch erwiesen. Deshalb gibt es die Arbeitsversionen beider Beiträge, für die ich vorgesehen bin, vorab hier.

Im ersten Kapitel geht es um das soziale und psychologische Profil der Wählerinnen und Wähler rechtsextremer, rechtspopulistischer und rechtsradikaler Parteien in Deutschland seit 1949. Konkret beschäftigt sich der Beitrag mit der Frage, was wir in über 50 Jahren Forschung über die Unterstützerinnen und Unterstützer von SRP, NPD, Republikanern, DVU und AfD herausgefunden haben.

Das zweite Kapitel beschäftigt sich mit der Anwendung der Methoden der empirischen Wahlforschung auf die Wählerinnen und Wähler der extremen Rechten. Dabei geht es (auf Einführungsniveau) um für die Rechtsextremismusforschung typische Forschungsdesigns und Erhebungsmethoden, um Datenquellen und in aller Kürze auch um Analyseverfahren.

The Radical Right Research Bot just learned to tag radical right parties

The Radical Right Research Bot just learned to tag radical right parties 3

Four years ago, the Radical Right Research Bot started its life as a fun (?) little side project. To make Twitter slightly less dumb, the bot tweets about the many, many titles in the Eclectic, Erratic Bibliography on the Extreme Right in Western Europe.

Some say that you cannot teach an old bot new tricks, but that is not true: the bot just learned to recognise the names of several radical right parties and began hashtagging them every now and then. It’s a very small step for mankind, but a giant leap for a silly old bot.