Video: the radical right & 4 critical elections in Western Europe in 2017

AfD results in 2017 federal election in Germany (map of districts)

As (West) European election years go, 2017 was quite something. The French party system changed beyond recognition. The radical right entered Germany’s national parliament for the first time. UKIP was wiped out, but May still managed to lose a comfortable majority. And very high fragmentation resulted in a coalition that looks improbable even by Dutch standards.

SCoRE is our multinational project that explores the link between local and regional living conditions on the one hand and radical right attitudes and behaviours in these four countries on the other. Sometimes, serendipity is really a thing. Because we had our individual-level data collection scheduled for this year anyway, we gained some unique insights into all four big Western European elections of 2017.

Accordingly, my colleagues have written up reports for France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, complete with beautiful maps. Who does not like maps?

But perhaps you’re pressed for time or not sure if you really want to read four (fairly short) reports? With the European Parliamentary elections on the horizon, I made a short explainer/teaser video about them to bring you up to speed in just over two minutes. I have a hunch that afterwards, you will want to read all four pieces.

Elections in Europe in 2017: four reports

Elections in Europe: great expectations.

Elections in Europe: a map of france
Source: Evans & Ivaldi, SCoRE project

2017 was a year of high-profile national elections in Europe, in which the Radical Right was expected to do particularly well. Balanced and neutral as ever, the Express claimed that the votes in France, Germany, and the Netherlands could DESTROY the EU. The Independent also flagged up the Dutch, German, and French elections, but added the Italian referendum, the Austrian presidential elections (both actually in 2016), and the British local elections, which, in hindsight, seems particularly quaint. Most observers missed the much more problematic Austrian parliamentary elections, and no one (arguably including the PM) expected Britain to go the polls, again.

SCoRE election data from four European countries

Elections in Europe: A map of UKIP losses in 2017
Source: Will Allchorn and Jocelyn Evans, SCoRE

For better or worse, the individual-level data collection for our project on sub-national context and radical right support in Europe (SCoRE) was scheduled for 2017 anyway. In SCoRE, we try to bring together particularly fine-grained official data on living conditions (including immigration, unemployment, local economic growth, and access to basic services) with survey data on right-wing attitudes and other attitudinal and behaviour variables that are geo-referenced. In other words: we can see how the way people think is linked to where they live, and what it is like there. And with the British PM’s decision to have a snap election, we became an election study on the side.

All politics is local: a close look at regional patterns of radical right voting in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK

What sets SCoRE apart from other projects is its focus on regional and even local patterns of voting. To showcase this, my colleagues have produced a series of reports on the elections in Europe from this particular angle.

Will Allchorn and Jocelyn Evans (University of Leeds) study the switch from UKIP to the Conservatives in the 2017 election. One of their most interesting findings (I think) is that “the switchers are more strongly anti-European suggesting a tactical preference for a governing party able to deliver Brexit.

Eelco Harteveld and Sarah de Lange show that support for the Dutch Radical Right is not strongly correlated with a rural-urban divide. The PVV thrives in areas that are economically deprived and suffer from demographic stagnation, independent of urbanisation.

Elections in Europe: a map of PVV results in the Netherlands
Source: Harteveld & de Lange, SCoRE
Elections in Europe: a map of AfD results in Germany
Source: Berning, SCoRE

In Germany, the AfD is very much an eastern party. However, Carl Berning demonstrates that in the 2017 election, the
AfD did also well in the south-western states. A (perceived) sense of local decline seems to be a major factor.

Finally, a strong rural/urban divide sets in radical right voting is characteristic for France. Gilles Ivaldi and Jocelyn Evans show that support for the Front National was broken up into two distinct clusters, one in the northern rust belt, the other in the south.