European Political Science Review

Research Article

Where do radical right parties stand? Position blurring in multidimensional competition

Jan Rovny 

Center for European Research, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Göteborg, Sweden

Abstract

This article questions the utility of assessing radical right party placement on economic issues, which has been extensively analyzed in academic literature. Starting from the premise that political parties have varying strategic stakes in different political issues, the article considers political competition in multiple issue dimensions. It suggests that political competition is not simply a matter of taking positions on political issues, but rather centers on manipulating the dimensional structure of politics. The core argument is that certain political parties, such as those of the radical right, seek to compete on neglected, secondary issues while simultaneously blurring their positions on established issues in order to attract broader support. Deliberate position blurring – considered costly by the literature – may thus be an effective strategy in multidimensional competition. The article combines quantitative analyses of electoral manifestos, expert placement of political parties, and voter preferences, by studying seventeen radical right parties in nine Western European party systems.

(Online publication February 29 2012)

Keywords

  • radical right;
  • spatial theory;
  • obfuscation;
  • dimensionality

Correspondence

E-mail: jrovny@gmail.com