What we are reading: Do PRR Parties Improve Representation?

Something good in everything?

Could radical right-wing populism be a (whispers) good thing? Of course it all depends on what we mean by “good”. Backlund and Jungar have a modest proposal: they suggest that radical right success could improve the representation of policy preferences in parliament. Using data from both expert and voter surveys in ten (West) European countries, they find that radical right parties occupy an almost unique position (both against immigration and against the European Union). They provide a good fit for their voters in this respect. On the other hand, most radical right parties are socially conservative (and more specifically homophobic), which many of their voters are not.

Backlund, A., & Jungar, A. (2019). Populist radical right party-voter policy representation in western europe. Representation, 55(4), 393–413. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00344893.2019.1674911

What we liked

Students liked that Backlund und Jungar disaggregate “left” and “right” into policy positions. Most of them had also never seen work based on expert surveys (!) and were duly impressed. They found the derivation of the hypotheses convincing and praised the effective tables and graphs. Students also said that a lot of useful information was found in the appendix, then realised that this was a double-edged compliment.

demonstration, fridays for future, climate change
Photo by dmncwndrlch on Pixabay

What we did not like so much

Students were a bit disappointed that populism did not really feature while nativism was really prominent in the analysis. Given the Muddean concept of populism and the Chapel Hill-based measurement effort, this is hardly surprising, but they were still somewhat disappointed. They also said that they would have liked to see data for more countries as well as a clearer rationale for country selection, and harboured doubts about the validity/comparability of the gay rights-items in the EES/CHES. Finally (and this may well be a Mainz thing), they said that representation/representative and responsive(ness) were used more or less interchangeably by the authors. While I’m not sure whether this is really true, I’m happy to see that my students strife for conceptual clarity (at least as far as other people’s work is concerned). Having said that, we thought that this is a fresh, almost unique take.

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