Institutional Structures and Partisan Attachments

The academic literature proposes a wide variety of factors that contribute to the explanation of far right party development.  However, these constructs are typically structural in nature, rather variable-oriented and are not necessarily able to explain far right party development as a whole.  Much too often, the existing literature assumes far right parties develop independently from one another, even though processes such as globalisation make this highly unlikely.  Therefore, this study refutes this assumption and claims far right party development is much more interdependent than the literature describes.  To do so, this study proposes to complement existing explanatory frameworks by shifting its principal focus and emphasising more dynamic variables and processes.  This innovative study’s main objective is to bring time and agency back into the analysis, thereby complementing existing frameworks.  In other words, the timing and the pace of far right party development should be considered when explaining this phenomenon, just like it should include the far right party itself.  Largely based on social movement and policy diffusion literature, this study identifies, describes and analyses the different facets and the importance of diffusion dynamics in the development of West-European far right parties.  The focus on the similarities and differences of diffusion patterns and the ensuing consequences for far right party development, allows this study to explore the nature, the role and the extent of diffusion dynamics in the development of West-European far right parties.

In order to successfully explore this diversity of diffusion patterns, the study relies on the comparative method, which combines the study case familiarity, much like case studies, and the study of differences, much like large-n studies.  This approach allows for the rejection of uniformity and generality, which is often the case in large-n studies.  Rather, it places diffusion patterns (and far right party development) in a socio-cultural and historical context, and it allows for this approach to add to the existing theory.  Within this comparative framework, and following the logic of triangulation, this study uses three complementing methodologies.  Based on the CSES dataset, it uses multilevel modelling to analyse far right party identification and form an image of volatile voters.  This helps determine far right parties’ degrees of similarity and the subsequent possibilities for diffusion.  In addition, the extensive analysis of primary, secondary and tertiary literature, help form a theoretical framework for diffusion dynamics and, most importantly, serve as a foundation for the last methodology.  Elite and expert interviews allow for the assessment and improvement of the theoretical framework, as well as the creation of an empirical framework.  Regardless of the empirical nature of this study’s last section, following its innovative nature, most findings must be interpreted with some caution and one must not make generalisations beyond those provided in the study. 

After an extensive overview of the existing literature and the methodological approach this study takes, the first chapter provides an analysis of partisan attachments, which indicates that volatile voters differ considerably in different political systems.  These observed differences indicate different diffusion opportunities but also the necessity of a case-specific approach to a certain extent.  Therefore, in the second chapter, the study designs a three-step algebraic model, which confirms the presence and the importance of the master frame and diffusion dynamics in far right party development.  A third chapter identifies four diffusion mechanisms, and it describes how these can influence far right party development differently.  The following chapters take a more empirical approach and can be divided in three sections.  A first section makes a clear distinction between a myopic and a deliberate state of diffusion.  Directly following this, a second section makes a distinction between direct and indirect diffusion patterns.  The examination of these two questions creates a set of diffusion characteristics that help describe how, when and why diffusion can become successful.  Ultimately, a simulation model is used to illustrate the validity of the above claims.

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Further details of workpackage 5.

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