Get access

Minority Group Size, Unemployment, and the Extreme Right Vote: The Crucial Case of Latvia


  • The author thanks Philip Habel for his comments on an earlier version of the article and will share all data and coding for replication purposes. Vladislava Petrova, William Stodden, and Aigars Zondaks provided research assistance.

Direct correspondence to Stephen Bloom, Department of Political Science, Southern Illinois University, 1000 Faner Drive, MC 4501;, Carbondale, IL 62901-4501.



I test the importance of demographic and economic contextual variables for the success of extreme right parties.


I employ subnational data from the crucial case of Latvia to capture the effects of minority group size and economic change on the extreme right vote. Ethnic Latvians constitute a bare majority of the Latvian population and GDP dropped by 18 percent in 2009.


I find that localities with high or rising unemployment were less likely to support extreme right parties. The dampening effect of unemployment on the extreme right was greater in localities with large minority populations.


These counterintuitive findings raise questions about the logic and generalizability of existing explanations of extreme right voting. The study of the extreme right is hampered not only by ill-suited measures of group size and economic conditions, but also by overarching theories that predict group-based outcomes.