The (dis)Loyalty of Protest Voters and Other Types of Supporters of New Centrist Anti-Establishment Parties

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - G466 (University of Glasgow)
Sarah Engler , Institute of Political Science, University of Bern
New political parties with ideological positions from the political mainstream belong to the winners in many elections in Central and Eastern Europe. Not much is known about the supporters of these so-called "centrist anti-establishment parties" so far. Given their strong emphasis on anti-establishment rhetoric combined with claims of fighting corruption, their success is often explained by the voters' dissatisfaction with the existing parties and only to a lesser extent by ideological proximities between supporters and the new party. When new centrist anti-establishment parties enter government, keeping the support of protest voters is a challenging task. While many new parties get replaced by even newer parties, other parties survive government participation and become established political actors themselves.

The paper tries to answer two questions: First, I test whether protest voters are the main group of supporters of all centrist anti-establishment parties in their first election. Despite the similarities of centrist anti-establishment parties, a closer look at the party programs and campaigns reveals diversity among them: Albeit all parties are ideologically moderate, some parties clearly identify with one side of the main axis of competition (left or right) while others represent positions from both sides. The latter parties might face a more heterogeneous composition of (protest) voters which could make the survival of a party more complicated. The second part of the paper analyzes whether and how the composition of voters of the surviving centrist anti-establishment parties has changed over time, and whether their survival depends on the initial composition of voters.

  • Engler CES 2017 Protest voters and ideology.pdf (695.6 kB)