Campaigning in Radical Right Heartland

I had the pleasure to read Oliver Gruber‘s new book Campaigning in Radical Right Heartland. Focusing on Austria — home of the FPÖ — Oliver provides a detailed picture of party competition around an increasingly salient issue: immigration. The book is exceptional in that it starts in 1971 and thus is able to trace how the issue and party politics around it have evolved. Intriguing is for example how immigration has moved from the Greens towards the FPÖ in terms of salience, yet in terms of frames used there was no comparable shift. I will surely refer to it whenever my own research on the politicization of immigration touches Austria.

With a dual focus on party manifestos and press releases, Oliver’s results are surely robust, and with attention paid to twenty or so different subtopics and ten frames, Oliver heeds Joost Berkhout and my call to pay more attention to this level of analysis.

I was intrigued by the detailed frame analysis, and how frames were used to infer party positions. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to compare my own manifesto-based party positions with Oliver’s frames-based ones, but at first glance the different methods agree.

While it delivers on depth and attention to developments over time, the book doesn’t offer much in terms of comparison to other countries. I would have liked a full discussion of how the findings in Austria translate to other cases — especially because I am convinced there’s much to be learned. In this sense I can only recommend the forthcoming book from the SOM project, which includes Austria alongside six other Western European countries (it’ll come out soon with Routledge).

Oliver shows that the politicization of immigration is driven by party ideology and issue ownership. With developments over time covered in detail, the book will offer new insights to those interested in party competition and how the mainstream parties react to a popular challenger like the FPÖ.

Gruber, Oliver. 2014. Campaigning in Radical Right Heartland: The Politicization of Immigration and Ethnic Relations in Austrian General Elections, 1971 – 2013. Zürich: LIT Verlag. ISBN: 9783643905178

Ruedin, Didier, and Laura Morales. 2012. “Obtaining Party Positions on Immigration from Party Manifestos.” Presented at EPOP.

Ruedin, Didier. 2013. “Obtaining Party Positions on Immigration in Switzerland: Comparing Different Methods.” Swiss Political Science Review 19(1):84–105. DOI: 10.1111/spsr.12018

Van der Brug, Wouter, Gianni D’Amato, Joost Berkhout, and Didier Ruedin, eds. 2015 (forthcoming). The Politicisation of Immigration: A Comparative Study of Seven Countries (1995-2009). Routledge.

Anti-Immigrant Parties in Switzerland

I while ago I compiled a list of anti-immigrant parties in Switzerland along with their vote share in (national) parliament. While I generally prefer a dynamic definition of which parties should be considered anti-immigrant, for the time covered in this list, this doesn’t seem to really matter.

Given is: party abbreviation, vote share in the lower chamber (National Council), number of seats, and an indication whether the party was part of government.

SVP: 14.9%, 29 seats, in government
FP: 4%, 7 seats, not in government
SD: 3.1%, 3 seats, not in government
EDU: 1.3%, 1 seat, not in government
LdT: 0.9%, 1 seat, not in government

SVP: 22.6%, 44 seats, in government [Swiss People’s Party]
SD: 1.8%, 1 seat; not in government [Swiss Democrats]
FP: 0.9%, 0 seats; not in government [Freedom Party]
EDU: 1.2%, 1 seat; not in government [Federal Democratic Union]
LdT: 0.9% vote; 0 seats; not in government [Ticino League]

SVP: 26.7%, 55 seats, in government
EDU: 1.3%, 2 seats, not in government
SD: 1.0%, 1 seat, not in government
LdT: 0.3%, 1 seat, not in government
FP: 0.2%, 0 seats, not in government

SVP: 28.9%, 62 seats, in government
EDU: 1.3%, 1 seat, not in government
LdT: 0.6%, 1 seat, not in government
SD: 0.5%, 0 seats, not in government

SVP: 26.6%, 54 seats, in government
EDU: 1.3%, 0 seats, not in government
LdT: 0.8%, 2 seats, not in government
MCG: 0.4%, 1 seat, [Geneva Citizens’ Movement]

The Literary Styles of Party Manifestos

It’s sometimes said that nobody really reads party manifestos, yet they are recognized as essential texts in political science. What is more, we often use computers to interact with party manifestos, or code them sentence by sentence — in which case it is easy to lose track of the overall manifesto.

One thing that is lost is the fact that the literary styles (should I call them genres?) of party manifestos vary significantly between parties. Some of the party manifestos read like (PowerPoint) business presentation full of bullet points and phrases that are really just assertions. Quite different are party manifestos that read like essays university graduates are required to write: an argument is developed, and policies are clearly justified with reference to some underlying principle. There are also differences between countries, which begin with the typical length of a party manifesto — anything between a leaflet and a full book-sized manifesto.

Obviously in most applications we don’t care about the literary styles of party manifestos, but there is certainly scope to research this topic a bit more systematically than getting impressions from actually reading party manifestos. There is probably something to learn about the authors of party manifestos.

Do (Mainstream) Parties Avoid Talking about Immigration?

According to issue ownership theories, parties should focus on the issues they are considered strong. This is especially true for issues where public preferences tend to go into the same direction (valence issues). In most Western European countries, the public have a preference for maintaining immigration controls or making them more restrictive. The policy alternative of increasing immigration is not politically viable. Does this mean that the parties not owning the issue avoid it?

We examined nearly 200 party manifestos in 6 countries over a period of 20 years. Only 3.6% contained no reference to immigration — parties do not completely avoid the issue. At the same time, unsurprisingly, we find that anti-immigrant parties on average devote nearly three times as many word (in proportion) to the issue than other parties.

Measuring Two-Partiness in R

Brian Gaines and Rein Taagepera have recently clarified how to measure two-partiness (or should that be two-partyness? It isn’t in my dictionary, so I went with the analogy with happiness, although both forms seem to be in use). They highlight that the effective number of parties (Neff) is inadequate as a measure of two-partiness: very different constellations can lead to similar values of Neff.

Interestingly, the suggest two distinct measures for measuring two-partiness (T, D2), and I have implemented them in my R package polrep, available on R-Forge. It’s probably worth reiterating at this point that Gaines and Taagepera do not suggest we stop using the effective number of parties in general, but that we use more appropriate measures if we’re interested in two-partiness.

Gaines, Brian J., and Rein Taagepera. 2013. “How to Operationalize Two-Partyness.” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties 0 (0): 1–18. doi:10.1080/17457289.2013.770398.