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Contextual Factors and the Extreme Right Vote in Western Europe, 1980–2002


  • I wish to thank Paul Whiteley for advice and comments. I am also indebted to the participants of staff seminars at Essex and Mainz and to Elisabeth Carter, Jocelyn Evans, and Chris Wendt for helpful comments at various stages of this research project.

Kai Arzheimer is Lecturer/DAAD Fellow, Department of Government, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 5GG, United Kingdom (


Research on the voters of the extreme right in Western Europe has become a minor industry, but relatively little attention has been paid to the twin question of why support for these parties is often unstable, and why the extreme right is so weak in many countries. Moreover, the findings from different studies often contradict each other. This article aims at providing a more comprehensive and satisfactory answer to this research problem by employing a broader database and a more adequate modeling strategy. The main finding is that while immigration and unemployment rates are important, their interaction with other political factors is much more complex than suggested by previous research. Moreover, persistent country effects prevail even if a whole host of individual and contextual variables is controlled for.