Does radical right success lead to mainstream re-positioning?
Radical right parties have existed for decades now, but most of them are still seen as challengers, because they aim to disrupt the (liberal democratic) consensus in their respective societies. Existing parties can react by digging their heels in, or by accommodation. As I have argued elsewhere, their best bet might even be to ignore the challenge. But if they chose accommodation, it is by no means clear whether this position shift was caused by the emergence of a radical right party: mainstream parties could simply react to the perceived shift in the preferences of their electorate. They might even try to preempt the rise of the radical right.
One new and very cool paper that tries to shed some light on these questions of causality is Abou-Chadi & Krause (2020), which we read this summer.
Abou-Chadi, T., & Krause, W. (2020). The causal effect of radical right success on mainstream parties” policy positions: a regression discontinuity approach. British Journal of Political Science, 50(3), 829–847. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007123418000029
What we liked
My students had rarely seen difference-in-difference and discontinuity designs in the wild. They were hugely impressed by this elegant (and quite conservative) setup. Obviously, they thought this was interesting and politically relevant research. More generally, they liked the idea (new to many) of investigating inter-party strategic behaviour.
What we did not like so much
There was not much we did not like much. Students wondered whether the assumption of continuity around the threshold is defensible, and whether the various parties are comparable. More importantly, they suggested that in the real world, parties might chose mixed strategies (e.g. introduce tougher rules on immigration to drive down numbers whilst also trying to reduce the salience of immigration and going all-out liberal on other “cultural” issues). Finally, they would have liked the authors to talk even more about the political implications of their findings.