Are radical right and radical left voters direct democrats? Explaining differences in referendum support between radical and moderate voters in Europe

Sebastien Rojon*, Arieke J. Rijken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Several Radical Right (RR) parties have called for referendums challenging European institutions, unpopular elites, and immigration, but do their voters support the use of referendums in general and do Radical Left (RL) voters also share preferences for these instruments? Combining data on twenty-six European countries from the 2012 ESS and the 2017 Polpart survey, we demonstrate that both RR and RL voters score higher on referendum support than moderate voters, with RR voters scoring the highest. However, the differences between voter groups are more characteristic of Western than Eastern European countries and the link between RR voting and referendum support is weaker in countries where these parties are more electorally successful. In a second analysis on five Western European countries from the 2017 Polpart Survey, we investigate individual-level explanations for the association between radical voting and referendum support, demonstrating that anti-elitism is the most important attitude linking RR voters to referendum support whereas income redistribution is the most important attitude linking RL voters to referendum support. Even when controlling for all possible explanations, we find that radical voters are still more favorable towards direct democracy than moderate voters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-609
Number of pages29
JournalEuropean Societies
Volume22
Issue number5
Early online date8 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • direct democracy
  • political participation
  • populism
  • radical left
  • radical right
  • Referendums

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