Politics of Extreme Party Entrance

Research project funded by a Swiss National Science Foundation Ambizione Grant for four years and carried out by Daniel Bischof

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The Causes & Consequences of Extreme Party Entrance

In this SNSF Ambizione project (4 years, 690'000 CHF), my research team and I try to understand the causes and consequences of radical party emergence. Radical candidates and parties - here defined as parties located at the very extremes of an imagined political left-right scale - are on the rise in democracies. Most recently, Germany experienced the entry of the radical right party AfD into parliament (2017), while in Spain (Podemos) and Greece (Syriza) radical left parties have entered parliament or enjoy governmental office. Such events of radical party entry are destined to have crucial consequences for the political and economic landscapes in modern democracies: established parties might adapt their agendas and positions in an effort to contain the voter potential of the new radical competitor; radical parties could influence media agendas in a disproportionately severe way; public priorities are likely to polarize as a result; and governments are likely to develop policies (e.g. local investment policies) to contain the electoral threat of radical party emergence. This project seeks to research the aforementioned consequences by collecting and analyzing a rich amount of original data (e.g. electoral, textual and geo-coded).

To learn more about the research questions, writings and findings of the project please scroll down.


How do extreme parties emerge in the first place? How do these parties successfully mobilize their activists? Which role does social media play to simplify meetings? Do cultural components play a role when and where extreme parties successfully emerge?

Societal Consequences

Does the entrance of extreme parties into parliaments affect public opinion? Does it legitimate extreme opinions amongst the public? And, do other parts of the public mobilize against extreme opinions?

Political Consequences

Does the entrance of extreme parties into parliament affect other parties? And if so, do parties vary in their reactions to the extreme competitor?

Media Consequences

How does the media react to extreme parties and their discourse?

Comparison through Time

How do today's extreme parties and societies compare to prominent historic cases? Which strategies, campaign slogans and rhetoric of today's extreme parties are influenced by the behavior of prominent role models in the past?

Writings Publications & Working Papers

Do Voters Polarize when Radical Parties Enter Parliament?

(with Markus Wagner), American Journal of Political Science: forthcoming.

We argue that the elite polarization as signalled by radical parties’ first entrance into parliament leads to public polarization. The presence of radical voices on the right has polarizing effects, illustrating how such institutional recognition and legitimation can have a far-reaching impact on society.


How Extreme Party Entrance Legitimizes Extreme Ideologies: The Case of the German AfD

(with Markus Wagner)

Studying the election of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) into Länderparlamente, we test if the AfD's parliamentary presence affects political attitudes as well as the amount/type of radical right demonstrations.

Work in Progress

How Parties Organize from the Grounds: The Genesis of the Movimento 5 Stelle

(with Thomas Kurer)

Few studies investigate how challenger parties came into existence in the first place and existing work was unable to directly investigate how parties build up their organizations from the grounds. We focus on the case of the 'Movimento 5 Stelle' and exploit the party's unique organizational structure: From the very beginning, M5S organized its meetings via the online tool ``meetup'' giving us a unique opportunity to study how political parties organize from the grounds. We web-scrapped the entire universe of M5S meetings from the first day of its existence, resulting in a geo-coded dataset with more than 200'000 meetings by more than 1'000 local chapters with an average number of 134 members in 896 different locations in Italy.

Work in Progress

The Cultural Roots of the German AfD Vote

(with Hanno Hilbig & Daniel Ziblatt)

We argue that voters who live in districts which are culturally more distinct and exclusive are more likely to vote for radical right parties. Cultural remoteness strengthens feelings of local identity and the need to isolate oneself from global developments. We approximate cultural remoteness by relying on linguistic micro-data from a unique dialectic survey conducted in the 19th century in 45'000 German schools. Using voting results on the district level we then predict voting for the Alternative für Deutschland and the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei in 3 elections. In line with our theoretical argument we find that cultural remoteness predicts radical right voting in Germany. Our findings have important implications for studies of extremism and the radical right.

Work in Progress

Does exposure to radical right marches affect voting and political preferences?

Politicians and journalists frequently emphasize that radical right grassroots mobilization matters for elections and preferences in exposed communities. The organizers of these marches explicitly seek to provide ``safe spaces'' for divergent, radical positions and, thereby, attempt to change the local perception of support for these radical views. Focusing on the German case and combining geo-coded protest data derived from the German security services with election results and public opinion data, I test these arguments employing difference-in-differences, matching and instrumental variable models. I find robust evidence that radical right marches affect elections and support for nationalism in exposed communities.

Work in Progress

Against the globalist class: Does the Alternative for Germany borrow from Hitler?

(with Judith Spirig)

Pundits and journalists suggest that some of the language and images used by radical right parties are reminiscent of speeches of fascist politicians in pre-WWII times. Most prominently Alexander Gauland, leader of the German Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), has been accused of having borrowed from Hitler. We test these allegations using the full set of Hitler’s speeches between 1925 and 1933 and the speeches of several AfD proponents -- including Gauland.

Work in Progress


Our Team & Associated Members

Daniel Bischof
Principal Investigator

Ambizione Grant Holder
@Department of Political Science
University of Zurich

Markus Wagner
Associated Researcher & Advisory Board Member

@Department of Government
University of Vienna

Florian Foos
Associated Researcher

@Department of Political Economy
King's College London

Théoda Woeffray
Research Assistant with BA

MA Student
@Department of Political Science
University of Zurich

Sebastian Weber
Research Assistant

BA Student
@Department of Political Science
University of Zurich

Natalia Podany
Research Assistant

BA Student
@Department of Political Science
University of Zurich


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