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The Causal Effect of Radical Right Success on Mainstream Parties’ Policy Positions: A Regression Discontinuity Approach

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 June 2018


This article investigates how the success of radical right parties affects the policy positions of mainstream parties. We do this using a regression discontinuity approach that allows us to causally attribute mainstream parties’ positional changes to radical right strength independent of public opinion as a potential confounder. Making use of exogenous variation created through differences in electoral thresholds, we empirically demonstrate that radical right success, indeed, causally affects mainstream parties’ positions. This is true for mainstream left as well as mainstream right parties. These findings make an important contribution to the broader literature on party competition as they indicate that other parties’ behavior and not only public opinion plays a crucial role in explaining parties’ policy shift.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018

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Department of Political Science, University of Zurich (Email:; Research Unit ‘Democracy and Democratization’, WZB Berlin Social Science Center (Email: For helpful comments the authors want to thank Pablo Barbera, Martin Kroh, Matthias Orlowski, Markus Wagner, the editor and three anonymous reviewers. Data replication sets are available in Harvard Datavers at and online appendices at


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