Whereas Realistic Conflict Theory claims that there is a negative relationship between the share of immigrants and the level of support for the extreme-right, Contact Theory claims that the relationship is positive. Using the technique of multilevel modelling, I will challenge these mutually exclusive theories by arguing that the relationship between immigration and extreme-right support is more complex. Instead of working in opposition to each other, Conflict Theory and Contact Theory operate simultaneously but at different levels of aggregation. The focus on immigrants as a contextual factor gives the impression that the Front National is an ‘urban phenomenon’ concentrated in high-immigration suburbs, however recent headlines suggest that the vote is declining in urban strongholds and spreading to rural areas. In a second analysis, I will demonstrate that the level of support for the Front National is higher in rural communes than in urban communes. Drawing from Social Disintegration Theory, I will argue that the party’s appeal to rural areas is a result of: 1) France’s agricultural crisis; 2) the growing divide between rural and urban spaces; and 3) the cut-backs on public expenditures.
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