Who Are the Members of Front National? Evidence From Interview Research

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
C2.17 (Oudemanhuispoort)
Daniel Stockemer , University of Ottawa
The French National Front is the prototypical radical right wing party in Western Europe (Hainsworth 2008). The party, which blames foreigners for France`s economic and social problems, embraces populism, and propagates racist elements , has known unprecedented electoral success over the past two decades. For example, Marine Le Pen`s Party garnered 17.9 percent of the popular vote at the presidential election in 2012. Responding to this success a whole battery of studies (Rydrgen 2004, Carter 2005, LaMontagne and Stockemer 2010) has established the personal and structural factors favouring the electoral upsurge of this party. However, there are very few studies that tackle the party`s members. The FN activists organize the party`s daily activities, participate in rallies and demonstrations and represent the party at elections. If we want to understand the dynamism within this party, its platforms and goals, we also have to understand the members. Responding to this necessity, this paper looks at the FN members and their activists`careers. Based on 60 interviews, which I have conducted with FN activists and sympathizers, I find that there are various types of activists (i.e. more ideologically oriented members and more instrumentally oriented members). The first type of members participates because they deem it the right thing to do. Activists in this category show stable patterns of involvement and show little concern for the electoral fortunes of the party. The second type of activists, more instrumentally oriented members, try to achieve personal gains through their engagement. This category of activists shows fluctuating patterns of involvement. During election times, and in particular when the odds of winning are good, more instrumentalists show high degrees of involvement. In contrast, in non-election years and during times where there is no chance to gain public visibility, this group of activists show little to no involvement.
  • CES Paper 2 Daniel Stockemer.pdf (697.9 kB)