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The Radical Right and Immigration in an Era of Economic Crisis

Political Extremism in Europe
Terri E. Givens

The initial success of radical right parties such as the French Front National (FN) in the mid-1980s coincided with concerns about immigration flows into countries across Europe. Although the post-WWII guest worker era had ended in the mid-1970s, immigration continued, mainly through family reunification. Based on research conducted in the mid-1990s through 2001, my book Voting Radical Right in Western Europe examined the role of coalition politics, immigration, unemployment, and other factors in the success of far right parties. Radical right parties in the 1980s and 1990s appealed to voters who felt threatened by modernization and globalization. They used immigrants as scapegoats for rising unemployment and underemployment and to address fears that new immigrants were a threat to cultural homogeneity. The research showed that radical right voters tended to be blue-collar males who were concerned about unemployment and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs. When conducting the research, I was regularly told that these parties were a"flash in the pan" and that they would disappear after the next election. The last decade has shown not only that these parties have staying power but also that in several instances they have participated in governments, either as part of a governing coalition