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Populist radical right parties and mass polarization in the Netherlands

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2017

Bruno Castanho Silva*
Department of Political Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary


Radical parties have been found to succeed under conditions of mass polarization. It is argued that their message resonates better with voters at the extremes of an ideological spectrum. This paper investigates if the reverse also holds, meaning that radical parties may contribute to the polarization of the public. I test this claim in the Netherlands, a country that has experienced the rise of populist radical right parties since 2002, using a synthetic control model built with a pool of comparable countries and Eurobarometer survey data. Results show that, after the rise of Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders, the level of polarization among the Dutch public increased more than it otherwise would have. These findings contribute to understanding the connection between elite- and mass-level polarization, and the consequences of populist radical right parties’ emergence in Western Europe.

Research Article
© European Consortium for Political Research 2017 

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