Abstract This study traces the evolution of right–wing extremism, conceptualized as latent electoral support for extreme right–wing parties (i.e., vote intention), in six Western European countries (i.e., Belgium, France, the Netherlands, West Germany, Denmark, and Italy) between 1984 and 1993. Employing a pooled time–series cross–sectional research design, the author examines the relative strength of three popular explanations of contemporary rightwing extremism: the impact of economic conditions (unemployment and inflation), social developments (immigration), and political trends (public's dissatisfaction with the political regime). Evidence is presented in support of the last two explanations. Rising levels of immigration and public dissatisfaction with the political regime significantly facilitate right–wing extremism. Contrary to the initial hypothesis however, results suggest that a declining national economy (unemployment in particular) diminishes the electoral appeal of extreme right–wing parties.