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Tjitske AkkermanImmigration policy and electoral competition in Western Europe: A fine-grained analysis of party positions over the past two decades”
Party Politics January 2015 21: 54-67

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First paragraph:

Radical right parties have succeeded in various countries in Western Europe in gaining substantial electoral support for their anti-immigration positions. The electoral success of radical right parties varies nationally, but on average the vote-share has been increasing over the past decades to about 10 percent and there is no sign that this trend is reversing. Linked up with this success, immigration issues have gained saliency in many Western European countries, which implies growing pressure on mainstream parties to reconsider their policy agendas with respect to the key issues of radical right parties. The central question of this article is: To what extent and in what ways have mainstream parties changed positions on immigration and integration issues under pressure from the electoral success of radical right parties? Systematic research taking account of the dynamics of competition at the right and left sides of the political spectrum is still scarce. Apart from widening the scope, the objective of this article is to bring more refinement into the analyses of the dynamics of programmatic competition between parties in this policy field. Parties not only have the options to coopt positions of successful competitors or to ignore them, they can also choose a mixed strategy. Immigration and integration policy is a broad policy field involving a sufficiently large variety of sub-issues to provide parties with the option of mixing and matching. To measure such differentiation requires fine-grained analysis of policy positions. Existing datasets, however, measure party positions in a way that is too comprehensive to differentiate inter-party and intra-party positions in this policy field. Therefore, a new dataset has been developed.

Tables and Figures:

Figure 1. Structure of the coding frame.
Figure 2. Positions of the party-families with respect to immigration and integration, 1989-2010.
Figure 3. Convergence-index of the mainstream right and the mainstream left, 1989-2010.
Figure 4. Convergence-index of the mainstream right and the radical right, 1989-2010.
Table 1. Mean positions mainstream parties in seven countries, 1989-2010.
Figure 5. Positions of party families on subcategories, 1989-2010.

Last Paragraph:

In other words, mainstream parties do not have coherent positions, but follow strategies that mix cosmopolitan with nationalist positions. Mixing positions in order to bridge conflicting preferences among their constituencies appears to be a common phenomenon among mainstream parties in this policy field. This belies the prevailing notion that such strategies are exceptional or typical only for Social Democratic parties. It furthermore raises the question whether mixed strategies are confined to exceptionally complex policy fields. Immigration and integration are certainly not unique in this respect. One might even argue that most of the broad policy categories that prevail in current methods used to measure party positions cover up compound issues. If complexity of issues is standard rather than exceptional, fine-grained analyses should be regarded as essential for an adequate measurement of the policy positions of mainstream parties.



Last updated Febuary 2015