Abdelkarim Amengay and Daniel Stockemer

While for more than thirty years, quantitative scholars have tested a broad range of structural factors, including, but not limited to, economics such as employment statistics, socio-demographics such as immigration numbers, and politico-institutional factors such as electoral system type characteristics, there is, to our knowledge, no meta-analysis that summarizes the influence of structural factors on the radical right-wing vote share. In this study, we provide the first meta-analysis on the pertinence of various structural indicators in explaining the vote for right-wing populists (RWPs). We ask two research questions: first, what are the most important structural factors of the RWP vote? Second, which ones display the most consistent findings in accounting for the vote share of these parties?

To answer these research questions, we identified 48 articles published in major comparative politics journals between January 1990 and October 2017 comprising 332 regression models. Two results stick out. First, there is an absence of consensus (yet) on what variables are part of core model to explain geographical variation in the radical right-wing vote share in Western Europe. In our sample, the articles use more than 20 different concepts, with over fifty different operationalisations. In addition to a lack of a coherent discussion about the “key” variables, it seems that even if two scholars agree on the structural variables that should be included in a study, there is little chance that they will agree on what are the best proxies to operationalize them.

Second, we find that most of these predictors show “inconsistent, often contradictory results” This applies particularly to what has been for a long time the “main predictors” of the radical right-wing vote share such as unemployment and immigration. For both variables, the empirical literature is far from reaching a consensus on each variable’s impact on the RWP vote share. For unemployment, the regression results, reflect mitigate findings in explaining the electoral support for radical right-wing parties. For immigration, the statistical significance and direction of the relationship seem to be highly dependent on the type of immigration proxy used (for example a proxy measuring Muslim immigration seems to bear more salience than a proxy measuring the overall percentage of the foreign population). In fact, only a few variables, such as crime rates and the district magnitude seem to have a consistent effect on the vote share for radical right-wing parties. The former variable, crime rates, seem to stimulate the electoral success of the radical right in almost two thirds of the cases. For the variable, district magnitude, we find that in 65 percent of the cases that larger districts generally increase the vote share of the radical right.


The full article 'The Radical right in Western Europe: a Meta-Analysis of Structural Factors' is open access and available to read in Political Studies Review until September 2018.


Abdelkarim Amengay is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Ottawa and Sciences Po, Paris. His research interests are radical right-wing parties, in particularly, the French Front National. Abdelkarim has previously published articles in French Politics, et la Revue francaise de science politique.

Daniel Stockemer is Associate Professor at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. Daniel’s research interests are political participation and political representation, as well as radical right-wing parties. Daniel has published 2 books, 1 edited volume and more than 80 articles that appeared among others in the European Journal of Political Research, Governance, or the European Union Politics.


Image: Fabio Visconti via Wikimedia Commons