Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-lm8cj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-06T13:02:36.083Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

When economic and cultural interests align: the anti-immigration voter coalitions driving far right party success in Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 May 2020

Daphne Halikiopoulou*
Associate Professor in Comparative Politics, Department of Politics and IR, University of Reading, Edith Morley 310, Whiteknights Campus, Berkshire, ReadingRG6 6AA, UK
Tim Vlandas
Associate Professor of Comparative Social Policy, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, Governing Body Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, 32 Wellington Square, OxfordOX1 2ER, UK


This article contests the view that the strong positive correlation between anti-immigration attitudes and far right party success necessarily constitutes evidence in support of the cultural grievance thesis. We argue that the success of far right parties depends on their ability to mobilize a coalition of interests between their core supporters, that is voters with cultural grievances over immigration and the often larger group of voters with economic grievances over immigration. Using individual level data from eight rounds of the European Social Survey, our empirical analysis shows that while cultural concerns over immigration are a stronger predictor of far right party support, those who are concerned with the impact of immigration on the economy are important to the far right in numerical terms. Taken together, our findings suggest that economic grievances over immigration remain pivotal within the context of the transnational cleavage.

Research Article
© European Consortium for Political Research 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Both co-authors have contributed equally to this article. The order of names reflects the principle of rotation.


Adler, D. and Ansell, B. (2020), ‘Housing and populism’, West European Politics 43(2): 344365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Afonso, A. and Rennwald, L. (2017), ‘Social class and the changing welfare state agenda of Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe’, in Manow, P., Palier, B. and Schwander, H. (eds), Electoral Realignments and Welfare State Transformations in Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Afonso, A. and Papadopoulos, Y. (2015), ‘How the populist radical right transformed Swiss welfare politics: from compromises to polarization’, Swiss Political Science Review 21: 617635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Artiles, A.M. and Meardi, G. (2014), ‘Public opinion, immigration and welfare in the context of uncertainty, European Trade Union Institute’, 20(1): 5368.Google Scholar
Arzheimer, K. (2009), ‘Contextual factors and the extreme right vote in Western Europe, 1980–2002’, American Journal of Political Science 53: 259275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Breuilly, J. (2005), ‘Dating the nation: how old is an old nation?,’ in Ichijo, A and Uzelac, G (eds), When is the Nation? Towards an Understanding of Theories of Nationalism, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Burns, P. and Gimpel, J.G. (2000), ‘Economic insecurity, prejudicial stereotypes, and public opinion on immigration policy’, Political Science Quarterly 115(2): 201225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chandler, C. and Tsai, Y.M. (2001), ‘Social factors influencing immigration attitudes: an analysis of data from the General Social SurveyThe Social Science Journal 38: 177188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Citrin, J., Green, D.P., Muste, C. and Wong, C. (1997), ‘Public opinion toward immigration reform: the role of economic motivationsThe Journal of Politics 59: 858881.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Citrin, J. and Sides, J. (2008), ‘Immigration and the imagined community in Europe and the United States’, Political Studies 56: 3356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Colantone, I., and Stanig, P. (2018), ‘The trade origins of economic nationalism’, American Journal of Political Science 62(4): 936953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Croon, M.A. and van Veldhoven, M.J.P.M. (2007), ‘Predicting group-level outcome variables from variables measured at the individual level: a latent variable multilevel model. Psychological Methods 12(1): 4557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dancygier, R.M. and Donnelly, M.J. (2013), ‘Sectoral economies, economic contexts, and attitudes toward immigration’, The Journal of Politics 75(1): 1735.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
De Koster, W., Achterberg, P. and van der Waal, J. (2013), ‘The new right and the welfare state: The electoral relevance of welfare chauvinism and welfare populism in the Netherlands’, International Political Science Review 34(1): 320. Scholar
De Lange, S.L. (2007), ‘A new winning formula? The programmatic appeal of the radical right’, Party Politics 13(4): 411435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Engler, S. and Weisstanner, D. (2020), ‘Income inequality, status decline and support for the radical right’, Journal of European Public Policy, Online first 3rd March 2020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ellinas, A. (2011), The Media and the Far Right in Western Europe: Playing the Nationalist Card, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Gidron, N. and Hall, P.A. (2017), ‘The politics of social status: economic and cultural roots of the populist right’, British Journal of Sociology 68: S57S84.Google ScholarPubMed
Golder, M. (2003), ‘Explaining variation in the success of extreme right parties in Western Europe’, Comparative Political Studies 36: 432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Golder, M. (2016), ‘Far right parties in Europe’, Annual Review of Political Science 19: 477–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hainmueller, J. and Hopkins, D.J. (2014), ‘Public attitudes towards immigration,’ Annual Review of Political Science 17:225249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halikiopoulou, D., Nanou, K. and Vasilopoulou, S. (2012), ‘The paradox of nationalism: the common denominator of radical right and radical left Euroscepticism’, European Journal of Political Research 51: 504539. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6765.2011.02050.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halikiopoulou, D., Mock, S. and Vasilopoulou, S. (2013), The civic zeitgeist: nationalism and liberal values in the European radical right. Nations and Nationalism 19(1): 107127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halikiopoulou, D., and Vasilopoulou, S. (2018), ‘Breaching the social contract: crises of democratic representation and patterns of extreme right party support’, Government and Opposition 53(1): 2650. doi:10.1017/gov.2015.43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halikiopoulou, D. and Vlandas, T. (2016), ‘Risks, costs and labour markets: explaining cross-national patterns of far right party success in European Parliament elections,’ Journal of Common Market Studies 54: 636655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halikiopoulou, D. and Vlandas, T. (2019), ‘What is new and what is nationalist about Europe’s new nationalism? Explaining the rise of the far right in Europe,’ Nations and Nationalism 25: 409434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Halla, M., Wagner, A.F. and Zweimüller, J. (2017), ‘Immigration and voting for the far right,’ Journal of the European Economic Association, 15(6): 13411385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Häusermann, S. and Schwander, H (2009), ‘Identifying outsiders across countries: similarities and differences in the patterns of dualization’. RECWOWE working paper.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hellwig, T. and Kweon, Y. (2016), ‘Taking cues on multidimensional issues: the case of attitudes toward immigration’, West European Politics 39(4): 710730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hooghe, L. and Marks, G. (2017), ‘Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage’, Journal of European Public Policy 25(1): 109135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hox, J. (2010) Multilevel Analysis: Techniques and Application. Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Inglehart, R. and Norris, P. (2016), ‘Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash,’ Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Research Working Paper Series [accessed on 26/01/17].CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ivaldi, G. (2015), ‘Towards the median economic crisis voter? The new leftist economic agenda of the Front National in France,’ French Politics 13: 346369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ivarsflaten, E. (2008), ‘What unites right-wing populists in Western Europe? Re- examining grievance mobilization models in seven successful cases’, Comparative Political Studies 41: 323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kaufmann, E. (2017), ‘Levels or changes?: Ethnic context, immigration and the UK Independence Party vote’, Electoral Studies 48: 5769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kinder, D.R. and Kiewiet, D.R. (1981), ‘Sociotropic politics: the American case,’ British Journal of Political Science 11: 129–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kitchelt, H. (2018), ‘A Simpleton’s Sketch of Politics in the Knowledge Society and the Role of Populist Radical Right and Left,’ workshop on Radicalism and Realignment. Duke University. Department of Political Science, April 20 and April 21.Google Scholar
Kitschelt, H. and McGann, A. (1995), The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Kriesi, H. (1998), ‘The transformation of cleavage politics: the 1997 Stein Rokkan lecture,’ European Journal of Political Research 33: 165185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lubbers, M. and Coenders, M. (2017), ‘Nationalistic attitudes and voting for the radical right in Europe,’ European Union Politics 18(1): 98118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lubbers, M. and Scheepers, P. (2002), ‘French Front National voting: a micro and macro perspective,’ Ethnic and Racial Studies 25: 120–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lubbers, M. and Güveli, A. (2007), ‘Voting LPF: stratification and the varying importance of attitudes,’ Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 17: 2148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lucassen, G. and Lubbers, M. (2012), ‘Who fears what? Explaining far-right-wing preference in Europe by distinguishing perceived cultural and economic ethnic threats,’ Comparative Political Studies 45(5): 547574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Malhotra, N., Yotam Margalit, Y. and Mo, C.H. (2013), ‘Economic explanations for opposition to immigration: distinguishing between prevalence and conditional impact. American Journal of Political Science 57: 391410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marx, P. (2014), ‘Labour market risks and political preferences: the case of temporary employment’, European Journal of Political Research 53(1): 136159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayda, A.M. (2006), ‘Who is against immigration? A cross-country investigation of individual attitudes toward immigrants,’ The Review of Economics and Statistics 88(3): 510530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mudde, C. (2007), Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mudde, C. (2012), The relationship between immigration and nativism in Europe and north America, Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute [accessed on 24/11/17].Google Scholar
Mudde, C. and Kaltwasser, C.R. (2018), ‘Studying populism in comparative perspective: reflections on the contemporary and future research agenda,’ Comparative Political Studies.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oesch, D. (2008), ‘Explaining workers’ support for right-wing populist parties in Western Europe: evidence from Austria, Belgium, France, Norway, and Switzerland,’ International Political Science Review 29(3): 349373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Polavieja, J.G. (2016), ‘Labour-market competition, recession and anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe: occupational and environmental drivers of competitive threat,’ Socio-Economic Review 14(3): 395417. doi:10.1093/ser/mww002.Google Scholar
Rehm, P. (2016). Risk Inequality and Welfare States, Cambridge et al.: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rooduijn, M. and Burgoon, B. (2018), ‘The paradox of well-being: do unfavorable socioeconomic and sociocultural contexts deepen or dampen radical left and right voting among the less well-off?’, Comparative Political Studies 51(13): 17201753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rooduijn, M., Burgoon, B., van Elsas, E.J. and van de Werfhorst, H.G. (2017), ‘Radical distinction: support for radical left and radical right parties in Europe,’ European Union Politics 18(4): 536559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Röth, L., Afonso, A. and Spies, D.C. (2018), ‘The impact of Populist Radical Right Parties on socio-economic policies,’ European Political Science Review 10(3): 325350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rovny, A.E. and Rovny, J. (2017), ‘Outsiders at the ballot box: operationalizations and political consequences of the insider–outsider dualism,’ Socio-Economic Review 15(1): 161185.Google Scholar
Rueda, D. (2007), Social Democracy Inside Out. Partisanship and Labour Market Policy in Industrialised Democracies, Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rydgren, J. (2008), ‘Immigration sceptics, xenophobes or racists? Radical right-wing voting in six West European countries’, European Journal of Political Research 47: 737765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scheve, K.F. and Slaughter, M.J. (2001), ‘Labour market competition and individual preferences over immigration policy’, The Review of Economics and Statistics 83: 133145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sniderman, P.M., Hagendoorn, L. and Prior, M. (2004), ‘Predisposing factors and situational triggers: Exclusionary reactions to immigrant minorities,’ American Political Science Review, 98: 3549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stockemer, D. (2016), ‘Structural data on immigration or immigration perceptions? What accounts for the electoral success of the radical right in Europe?,’ JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 54(4): 9991016.Google Scholar
Swank, D. and Betz, H.G. (2003), ‘Globalization, the welfare state and right-wing populism in Western Europe’, Socio-Economic Review 1: 215–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Swank, D. and Betz, H.G. (2018), ‘Globalization, institutions of social solidarity, and radical right-wing populism in Western Europe,’ Paper prepared for presentation at the 2018 Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association, August 30–September 2, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
Tilley, J. and Evans, G. (2017), ‘The new politics of class after the 2017 General Election’, The Political Quarterly 88: 710715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van der Brug, W., Fennema, M. and Tillie, J. (2005)Why some anti-immigrant parties fail and others succeed: a two-step model of aggregate electoral support’, Comparative Political Studies 38(5): 537573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van der Brug, W. and Meindert Fennema, M. (2007), ‘What causes people to vote for a radical-right party? A review of recent work’, International Journal of Public Opinion Research 19(4): 474487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Elsas, E., Hakhverdian, J.A. and Van der Brug, W. (2016), ‘United against a common foe? The nature and origins of Euroscepticism among left-wing and right-wing citizens’, West European Politics 39(6): 11811204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Spanje, J. (2010), ‘Contagious parties: anti-immigrant parties and their impact on other parties’ immigration stances in contemporary Western Europe’, Party Politics 16(5): 563586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vasilopoulou, S. and Halikiopoulou, D. (2015), The Golden Dawn’s nationalist Solution: Explaining the Rise of the Far Right in Greece, New York: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vlandas, T. (2013), ‘The politics of temporary work deregulation in Europe: solving the French puzzle’, Politics & Society 41(3): 425460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vlandas, T. and Halikiopoulou, D. (2018), ‘Does unemployment matter? Economic insecurity, labour market policies and the far right vote in Europe’, European Political Science.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Halikiopoulou and Vlandas Supplementary Materials

Halikiopoulou and Vlandas Supplementary Materials

Download Halikiopoulou and Vlandas Supplementary Materials(File)
File 991 KB