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Protest or mainstream? How the European anti-immigrant parties developed into two separate groups by 1999


Address for correspondence: van der Brug, Department of Communication Science, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Abstract.  In their 1994 study of electoral preferences for anti-immigrant parties, Van der Brug et al. (2000) concluded that most voters consider anti-immigrant parties to be normal parties. In this replication using 1999 data, the main conclusions of the 1994 study are confirmed for FPÖ, Alleanza Nazionale, Dansk Folkeparti and Vlaams Blok. Preferences for these parties are largely determined by the same variables that determine preferences for other parties. Votes for these parties should not be interpreted as protest votes. Things turned out to be different for the Lega Nord, the Centrumdemocraten, the Fremskridtspartiet, the French Front national, the Republikaner and the Wallonian Front National. The motivations to vote for any of the latter parties turn out to be substantially different in 1999 than they were in 1994. In 1999, these parties attracted more protest votes, or rather they lost their ideological and pragmatic votes. This article ends with a discussion of the implications of these findings for our theoretical understanding of electoral support for these parties, as well as for the ongoing political debate about the appropriate strategy to fight them.