Spies, Dennis Christopher (2011) The Impact of Party Competition on the Individual Vote Decision: The Case of Extreme Right Parties. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.
Since the early 1980s, Western Europe has witnessed the rising success of niche parties and a simultaneous decline in the vote share of mainstream parties. While for one group of these niche parties, namely the left-libertarian and green parties, this success is commonly explained by the rise of a ‘new politics’ or ‘post-materialist’ dimension, the causes for the emergence of Extreme Right Parties (ERPs) are still disputed. The continuous electoral support for ERPs at the national, regional and local level was unexpected and has induced a great deal of scientific attention and effort to explain the different fortunes of these parties at the polls. Previous research on the factors influencing the electoral success of ERPs has emphasized the importance of voter characteristics and party competition for the electoral fortunes of ERPs. With regard to the first, ERP voters have been found to share common policy preferences and are related to distinct socio-economic groups. With regard to party competition, scholars have pointed to the role of the electoral programmatic of ERPs as well as their mainstream competitors for the electoral support of ERPs. While existing studies come to the overall conclusion that both voter preferences and patterns of party competition do influence the electoral fortunes of ERPs, the question of how party competition influences the vote decision for an ERP is still a matter of academic dispute. The single contributions of this dissertation contribute to the existing literature on the impact of party competition on the vote decision for an ERP by (1) focusing on the interplay between the political preferences of ERP voters and party competition, (2) applying a two-dimensional approach to the political opportunity structure of ERPs, and (3) incorporating the findings into a formal theory on how party competition influences the decision of individual voters, be they ERP voters or supporters of any other party in Western Europe.
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