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Responding to the (Populist) Right: How Moderate Parties Can Win Back Voters

Jan 01, 2021 — Dec 31, 2021

Right-wing populist and far right parties are on the rise across Europe. While established parties are suffering dramatic electoral losses, right-wing parties are celebrating one electoral victory after another. To address their radical right and populist challengers, many established parties have adopted a so-called “accommodative strategy” (Meguid 2005, 2008) by taking a more immigration-skeptical policy position. For instance, in an attempt to win back voters from the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) during the recent refugee crisis, the German CSU has advocated a much more restrictive immigration policy position openly opposing chancellor Merkel and the CDU in the aftermath of the refugee crisis. Similarly, during the recent Danish election in June 2019, the Danish Social democratic party combined its left-wing views on social policy with advocating for a much more restrictive immigration policy in an effort to counteract the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party. However, it is unclear whether such a strategy yields the expected benefits or whether such a position shift only reinforces electoral support for the far right. In this project, we therefore seek to study the effect of moderate parties’ responses to the rise of right-wing populist and far right parties. More specifically, we seek to examine which strategies mainstream parties can employ to keep their voters from switching to far right challengers.