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Transnational issues of right-wing populist parties in the European election campaign

News from Jun 29, 2022

Migration and blaming elites - these are the issues that unite right-wing populist parties transnationally in the 2019 European election campaign, as shown in study by Annett Heft, Barbara Pfetsch, Vadim Voskresenskii and Vivien Benert of the Digitalisation and Transnational Public Sphere Research Group, now published in the European Journal of Communication. The study investigates the degree to which six right-wing populist parties use social networks to mobilise voters on a transnational, European level. Results show that the parties partly have a transnationally shared repertoire of issues. However, there are also party-specific adaptations of issues based on national political opportunity structures.

In a more in-depth study, Michael Vaughan and Annett Heft look at the right-wing populist narrative of blaming elites: they distinguish between specific anti-elitism, which is directed against certain, demonstrably powerful elites (e.g. Angela Merkel), and a more general anti-elitism, which is based on broader discursive concepts (e.g. "the elites"). "Anti-elitism in the European Radical Right in Comparative Perspective" also uses the 2019 European Parliament elections as an entry point to analyse possible transnational convergences based on the online election campaigns of six right-wing populist parties. The study shows a tendency towards a focus on specific elites in the European election campaign as well as a clear differentiation depending on the position of the individual party in its national power structure: while opposition parties tend to target their national elites, governing parties focus on the higher European level. The findings suggest that "anti-elitism functions as a flexible, overarching communication style that enables this strategic switching between these different levels as required".

Transnational issue agendas of the radical right? Parties‘ Facebook campaign communication in six countries during the 2019 European Parliament election was published in the European Journal of Communication and Anti-elitism in the European Radical Right in Comparative Perspective was published in the Journal of Common Market Studies and is available for open access.

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