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A Two-Dimensional Approach to the Political Opportunity Structure of Extreme Right Parties in Western Europe

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Previous studies on the electoral fortunes of extreme right parties (ERPs) have pointed to the importance of variables of party competition for the success – or failure – of ERPs. These studies vary greatly when it comes to describing the political opportunity structure of the extreme right. Apart from their methodological differences, existing studies differ especially with regard to the assumed underlying dimension of party competition. This article tests the impact of three frequently discussed variables in the political opportunity structure of ERPs (mainstream party convergence, position of the established right and party system polarisation) on the vote share of ERPs in Western Europe. In addition to examining previous studies in this field, it focuses on the interplay between the economic and the cultural dimensions as part of the political opportunity structure. The authors show that a decrease in polarisation with regard to economic questions is accompanied by a growing salience of ERPs' core issues, leading in the end to an increase in ERPs' vote share.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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