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Waking Up the Golden Dawn: Does Exposure to the Refugee Crisis Increase Support for Extreme-Right Parties?

  • Elias Dinas (a1) (a2), Konstantinos Matakos (a3), Dimitrios Xefteris (a4) and Dominik Hangartner (a5) (a6) (a7)

Abstract

Does exposure to the refugee crisis fuel support for extreme-right parties? Despite heated debates about the political repercussions of the refugee crisis in Europe, there exists very little—and sometimes conflicting—evidence with which to assess the impact of a large influx of refugees on natives’ political attitudes and behavior. We provide causal evidence from a natural experiment in Greece, where some Aegean islands close to the Turkish border experienced sudden and drastic increases in the number of Syrian refugees while other islands slightly farther away—but with otherwise similar institutional and socioeconomic characteristics—did not. Placebo tests suggest that precrisis trends in vote shares for exposed and nonexposed islands were virtually identical. This allows us to obtain unbiased estimates of the electoral consequences of the refugee crisis. Our study shows that among islands that faced a massive but transient inflow of refugees passing through just before the September 2015 election, vote shares for Golden Dawn, the most extreme-right party in Europe, moderately increased by 2 percentage points (a 44 percent increase at the average). The finding that mere exposure to the refugee crisis is sufficient to fuel support for extreme-right parties has important implications for our theoretical understanding of the drivers of antirefugee backlash.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.

Corresponding author

Footnotes

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Authors’ note: We would like to thank Elli Palaiologou for helping us with the data collection and the participants at the 2016 EPEC Conference, 2016 APSA Annual Conference, 2016 CRETE conference, 2016 ASSET Conference, 2017 NICEP conference and the 2017 EPSA conference as well as seminar participants at the London School of Economics, King’s College London, the University of California, Los Angeles, the European University Institute, and the University of Mannheim for their helpful comments. D.H. acknowledges support from the Leverhulme Trust. Code and data for the replication of the empirical analyses can be found on the Political Analysis Dataverse (Dinas et al.2018).

Contributing Editor: Justin Grimmer

Footnotes

References

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Political Analysis
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