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Matthew Goodwin, Robert Ford, and David Cutts, "Extreme right foot soldiers, legacy effects and deprivation: A contextual analysis of the leaked British National Party (BNP) membership list," Party Politics, 19 (November 2013), 887-906. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol19/issue6/ ]

First paragraph:
There is now a substantial literature on populist radical right and extreme right parties (ERPs) (Mudde, 2007).1 Much of this research examines the socio-attitudinal profile of their voters or cross-national variations in support. In contrast, less is known about the most committed supporters of ERPs, the grassroots members.2 What factors encourage membership of these types of parties? The lack of research on this question is often attributed to the problem of accessibility or authoritarian models of organization that allow scant involvement from the grassroots (Carter, 2005). Despite these obstacles, however, the dearth of empirical research on ERP members remains striking for several reasons.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. BNP membership, 2001-2009.
Table 1. BNP Membership per 100,000 of the local authority population.
Table 2. Model descriptives.
Table 3. Impact of individual predictors on BNP membership levels.
Table 4. Contextual predictors of BNP membership

Last Paragraph:
Our most important finding is evidence of a 'legacy effect', whereby an earlier cycle of activism by the NF emerges as a strong and significant predictor of modern membership of the BNP. In path-dependent fashion, the BNP has recruited strongest in areas where a more violent and confrontational party was active some four decades previously. While the BNP has actively sought to downplay this historic legacy and emulate the more successful populist radical right formula (Mudde, 2007), there remains strong continuity between its membership and the old NF. This finding offers one explanation for why the BNP has suffered recent electoral setbacks and has struggled to convince Britons it is an electorally credible and legitimate alternative. While in some areas the BNP has improved its electoral prospects by establishing a strong community-based presence, its heavy dependence on activists who are linked to a highly stigmatized tradition in British politics has arguably been a major contributory factor to the way in which majorities of Britons remain deeply hostile toward the party (Goodwin, 2011). More generally, our findings suggest that future research would be well advised to examine more closely the local political and social context in which ERPs operate, in particular the feedback dynamics that may gradually build membership and electoral representation and local conditions associated with repeated waves of ERP activism.

Last updated November 2013