Does host ideology shape populist parties’ attitudes towards the EU? The links of populism and Euroscepticism in Southern Europe

 

ARTÍCULO / ARTICLE

DOES HOST IDEOLOGY SHAPE POPULIST PARTIES’ ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE EU? THE LINKS OF POPULISM AND EUROSCEPTICISM IN SOUTHERN EUROPE

¿CONDICIONA LA IDEOLOGÍA DE ACOGIDA LAS ACTITUDES DE LOS PARTIDOS POPULISTAS HACIA LA UE? LOS VÍNCULOS ENTRE POPULISMO Y EUROESCEPTICISMO EN EL SUR DE EUROPA

Carolina Plaza-Colodro

University of Salamanca

cplazaco@usal.es

ORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9680-3590

Margarita Gómez-Reino

UNED

mgomez-reino@poli.uned.es

ORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9130-3554

Hugo Marcos-Marne

University of St. Gallen

hmarcosmarne@gmail.com

ORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7085-9572

 

ABSTRACT

Can a study of populist parties in Southern Europe shed light on the relation between populism and Euroscepticism? The proposed comparative framework examines the different degrees and types of Euroscepticism of populist parties in the Southern region. We expect that the variety of populist parties in this region, more oriented to the left, will help to expand our knowledge of the links between populism and Euroscepticism. Overall, our article shows that left and right-wing populist parties share what may initially look as a homogeneous Eurosceptic profile. However, further examination supports that left-wing populist parties hold more positive views of the EU in indicators related to the political side of the EU (powers of the European Parliament and enlargement).

RESUMEN

¿Puede un estudio de partidos populistas en el sur de Europa arrojar luz sobre la relación entre el populismo y el euroescepticismo? Este trabajo comparativo examina los diferentes grados y tipos de euroescepticismo de los partidos populistas en la región sur, ya que esperamos que la naturaleza más variada de los partidos populistas en esta región amplíe el conocimiento sobre las relaciones entre el populismo y el euroescepticismo. En general, nuestro artículo muestra que los partidos populistas de izquierda y derecha comparten lo que inicialmente puede parecer un perfil euroescéptico homogéneo. Sin embargo, un examen más exhaustivo confirma que los partidos populistas de izquierda tienen opiniones más positivas sobre el proceso de integración en los indicadores relacionados con el lado político de la UE (poderes del Parlamento Europeo y proceso de ampliación).

Received: 22-12-2017; Accepted: 09-09-2018.

Cómo citar este artículo/Citation: Plaza-Colodro, C., M. Gómez-Reino and H. Marcos-Marne. 2018. "Does host ideology shape populist parties’ attitudes towards the EU? The links of populism and Euroscepticism in Southern Europe". Revista Internacional de Sociología 76(4):e112. https://doi.org/10.3989/ris.2018.76.4.18.003

KEYWORDS: Euroscepticism; political ideology; populism; Southern Europe.

PALABRAS CLAVE: Euroescepticismo; ideología; populismo; Sur de Europa.

Copyright: © 2018 CSIC. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.

CONTENTS

RESUMEN
ABSTRACT
INTRODUCTION
THE NEXUS OF POPULISM AND EUROSCEPTICISM
THICK IDEOLOGIES AND EUROSCEPTICISM. WHY IS SOUTHERN EUROPE DIFFERENT?
DATA: POPULIST PARTIES AND THEIR ELECTORAL PLATFORMS
DOES HOST IDEOLOGY MATTER? LEFT-RIGHT POSITIONING ON POPULIST PARTIES’ EUROSCEPTICISM
CONCLUSIONS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
NOTES
REFERENCES
ABOUT THE AUTHORS

 

INTRODUCTION Top

Contemporary research suggests that populism is one of the driving forces behind a profound process of realignment taking place in European party systems since the 2008 Great Recession (Kriesi 2014Kriesi, H. 2014. "The populist challenge". West European Politics 37(2):361-378. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2014.887879.; Pirro, Taggart and Van Kessel 2018Pirro, A. L., P. Taggart and S. van Kessel. 2018. "The populist politics of Euroscepticism in times of crisis: Comparative conclusions". Politics 38(3):378-390. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395718784704.). At the national level, populist forces have been able to capitalize on the crisis of representation triggered by governments’ loss of legitimacy, and this environment of “disconformity” has paved the way to campaign against the political establishment who assured that “Europe is good” (Duff 2013Duff, A. 2013. "On dealing with Euroscepticism". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 51(1):140-152. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2012.02304.x.: 141). Although contestation directed towards the European Union (EU) existed before (see Hooghe and Marks 2007Hooghe, L. and G. Marks. 2007. "Sources of Euroscepticism". Acta Politica 42(2-3):119-127. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.ap.5500192.), the electoral and political relevance of populist forces sets a new scenario, in which Eurosceptic positions are no longer the patrimony of small and marginal political parties.

Hence, a central piece of the post-2008 political scenario relates to the (re)politization of European integration as a source of political contestation in many member states (Kriesi and Grande 2015Kriesi, H. and E. Grande. 2015. "The Europeanization of the national political debate". Pp. 67-86 in Democratic politics in a European Union under stress, edited by O. Cramme and S. B. Hobolt. Oxford: Oxford University Press. and 2016Kriesi, H. and E. Grande. 2016. "The euro crisis: A boost to the politicization of European integration?". Pp. 240-278 in Politicizing Europe, edited by S. Hutter, E. Grande and H. Kriesi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.). On the demand side, the Eurozone crisis provoked a new wave of Euroscepticism (Usherwood and Startin 2013Usherwood, S. and N. Startin. 2013. "Euroscepticism as a persistent phenomenon". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 51(1):1-16. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2012.02297.x.; Armingeon and Ceka 2014Armingeon, K. and B. Ceka. 2014. "The loss of trust in the European Union during the great recession since 2007: The role of heuristics from the national political system". European Union Politics 15(1):82-107. https://doi.org/10.1177/1465116513495595.; Braun and Tausenpfund 2014Braun, D. and M. Tausendpfund. 2014. "The impact of the Euro crisis on citizens’ support for the European Union". Journal of European Integration 36(3):231-245. https://doi.org/10.1080/07036337.2014.885751.), and a decrease in support for further integration (Hobolt 2014Hobolt, S. B. 2014. "A vote for the President? The role of Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament elections". Journal of European Public Policy 21(10):1528-1540. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2014.941148.). In spite of the intents of depoliticization to inhibit political reactions against the EU, discussions over Europe and the European integration are not only increasingly expressed in national public debates (De Wilde and Zürn 2012Wilde, P. de and M. Zürn. 2012. "Can the politicization of European integration be reversed?". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 50:137-153. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2011.02232.x.: 138; Hooghe and Marks 2018Hooghe, L. and G. Marks. 2018. "Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage". Journal of European Public Policy 25(1):109-135. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2017.1310279.: 123; Börzel and Risse 2018Börzel, T. A. and T. Risse. 2018. "From the euro to the Schengen crises: European integration theories, politicization, and identity politics". Journal of European Public Policy 25(1):83-108. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2017.1310281.: 20); also, the salience of European issues is out of the control of mainstream parties (Grande and Hutter 2016Grande, E. and S. Hutter. 2016. "Beyond authority transfer: explaining the politicization of Europe". West European Politics 39(1):23-43. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2015.1081504.: 40; Treib 2014Treib, O. 2014. "The voter says no, but nobody listens: causes and consequences of the Eurosceptic vote in the 2014 European elections". Journal of European Public Policy 21(10):1541-1554. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2014.941534.). Moreover, political controversies regarding Europe in the last decade have generated debates on topics like “the question of bailing out of member States in need” (De Wilde and Zürn 2012Wilde, P. de and M. Zürn. 2012. "Can the politicization of European integration be reversed?". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 50:137-153. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2011.02232.x.: 138) or “the numbers of refugees that should be received” (Harteveld et al. 2018Harteveld, E., J. Schaper, S. L. de Lange and W. van der Brug. 2018. "Blaming Brussels? The Impact of News about the Refugee Crisis on Attitudes towards the EU and National Politics". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 56(1):157-177. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcms.12664.: 1), permitting parties to mobilize European issues using different framings.

Euroscepticism literature largely considers that political parties’ attitudes towards the EU, besides strategic considerations, are fundamentally shaped by their political ideology (c.f. Szczerbiak and Taggart 2003Szczerbiak, A. P. and P. Taggart. 2003. "Theorising Party-Based Euroscepticism: Problems of Definition, Measurement and Causality". European Parties Elections and Referendums Network Working Paper nº 12. http://aei.pitt.edu/id/eprint/6562. or Benedetto and Quaglia 2017Benedetto, G. and L. Quaglia. 2007. "The Comparative Politics of Communist Euroscepticism in France, Italy and Spain". Party Politics 13(4):478-499. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068807077957.). Although this relation is dynamic, there is a general agreement that radical parties, both on the right and left-side of the ideological spectrum, are more likely to be Eurosceptic (Hooghe, Marks and Wilson 2002Hooghe, L., G. Marks and C.J. Wilson. 2002. "Does Left/Right Structure Party Positions on European Integration?". Comparative Political Studies 35(8):965-989. https://doi.org/10.1177/001041402236310.; De Vries and Edwards 2009Vries, C. E. de and E. E. Edwards. 2009. "Taking Europe to its extremes: Extremist parties and public Euroscepticism". Party Politics 15(1):5-28. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068808097889.; Halikiopoulou, Nanou and Vasilopoulou 2012Halikiopoulou, D., K. Nanou and S. Vasilopoulou. 2012. "The paradox of nationalism: The common denominator of radical right and radical left euroscepticism". European Journal of Political Research 51(4):504-539. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6765.2011.02050.x.). From a different stream of literature, Rooduijn and Akkerman (2017Rooduijn, M. and T. Akkerman. 2017. "Flank attacks: Populism and left-right radicalism in Western Europe". Party Politics 23(3):193-204. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068815596514.) also underlined that a relation exists between political ideological radicalism and populist discourses. Triangulating these elements, we should reasonably expect that populist parties tend to be Eurosceptic. However, as Harmsen (2010Harmsen, R. 2010. "Concluding Comment: On Understanding the Relationship between Populism and Euroscepticism". Perspectives on European Politics and Society 11(3):333-341. https://doi.org/10.1080/15705854.2010.503036.) suggests, populism and Euroscepticism should be considered in relational terms, that is, “in relation to the particular positions occupied by particular parties at particular times within their national party systems” (Harmsen 2010Harmsen, R. 2010. "Concluding Comment: On Understanding the Relationship between Populism and Euroscepticism". Perspectives on European Politics and Society 11(3):333-341. https://doi.org/10.1080/15705854.2010.503036.: 338). Can a study of populist parties in Southern Europe shed light on the connection between populism and Euroscepticism?

We argue in this paper that, despite recent efforts (Rooduijn 2018Rooduijn, M. 2018. "What unites the voter bases of populist parties? Comparing the electorates of 15 populist parties". European Political Science Review 10(3):351-368.; Della Porta, Kouki and Fernandez 2017Porta, D. della, H. Kouki and J. Fernandez. 2017. "Left’s Love and Hate for Europe: Syriza, Podemos and Critical Visions of Europe During the Crisis". Pp. 219-240 in Euroscepticism, Democracy and the Media, edited by M. Caiani and S. Guerra. London: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-59643-7_10.; Carlotti 2017Carlotti, B. 2017. "The odd couple: analyzing United Kingdom Independence Party UKIP and Italian Five Stars Movement’s FSM’s European Union EU-opposition in the European Parliament EP". Italian Political Science Review 48(2):197-220. https://doi.org/10.1017/ipo.2017.24.; Harmsen 2010Harmsen, R. 2010. "Concluding Comment: On Understanding the Relationship between Populism and Euroscepticism". Perspectives on European Politics and Society 11(3):333-341. https://doi.org/10.1080/15705854.2010.503036.), the relationship between populism and Euroscepticism has been largely considered from a “northern-European” perspective. Far from claiming that current research findings are inaccurate, we aim to complement them by focusing on a geographical area that has been less explored, and whose populist ideological profile is more dominated by left-wing forces. In doing so, we delve into different subtypes of negative attitudes towards the EU, investigating to what extent political ideology shapes populist parties’ discourses towards the EU.

A comparative framework is proposed to answer whether the relationship between populism and Euroscepticism is mediated by host ideologies in a distinctive manner. We investigate the relationship between populism and positions towards the EU through a comparison of Southern European populist parties in Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.[1] Overall, our article shows that left and right-wing populist parties share what may initially look like a homogeneous Eurosceptic profile. However, further examination supports that left-wing populist parties hold more positive views of the EU in indicators related to EU performance and EU strengthening (powers of the European Parliament and EU enlargement).

This article is organized as follows: the first section discusses the literature on the relation between populism and Euroscepticism, focusing on two main elements: radicalism and anti-elitism. The second section delves into the expected differences caused by host ideologies and presents the main hypothesis. The third section presents the data utilized, justifies the selection of cases and refers to the methodological approach. The fourth section discusses the results, and ending with conclusions.

 

THE NEXUS OF POPULISM AND EUROSCEPTICISM Top

Nowadays, it seems uncontroversial to define populism as a thin ideology (Mudde 2004Mudde, C. 2004. "The populist zeitgeist". Government and Opposition 39(4):541-563. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-7053.2004.00135.x.) which considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’, and which emphasises that politics should be an expression of the general will (Stanley 2008Stanley, B. 2008. "The thin ideology of populism". Journal of Political Ideologies 13(1):95-110. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569310701822289.; Van Kessel 2014Kessel, S. van. 2014. "The populist cat-dog: Applying the concept of populism to contemporary European party systems". Journal of Political Ideologies 19(1):99-118. https://doi.org/10.1080/13569317.2013.869457.). Populism can be reduced in its minimal definition to two core features: anti-elitism, which is a central piece of populist and challenger parties (Mudde 2004Mudde, C. 2004. "The populist zeitgeist". Government and Opposition 39(4):541-563. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-7053.2004.00135.x.; Hobolt and Tilley 2016Hobolt, S. B. and J. Tilley. 2016. "Fleeing the centre: The rise of challenger parties in the aftermath of the euro crisis". West European Politics 39(5):971-991. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2016.1181871.), and people-centrism. Populism, although far from being a new phenomenon (Hawkins and Rovira Kaltwasser 2017Hawkins, K. and C. Rovira Kaltwasser. 2017. "What the Ideational Study of Populism Can Teach Us, and What It Can’t". Swiss Political Science Review 23(4):526-542. https://doi.org/10.1111/spsr.12281.), has proved adept in shaping contemporary European politics, particularly in the post-crisis period, when issues related to European integration became more relevant than ever (Kriesi 2014Kriesi, H. 2014. "The populist challenge". West European Politics 37(2):361-378. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2014.887879.; Kriesi and Grande 2015Kriesi, H. and E. Grande. 2015. "The Europeanization of the national political debate". Pp. 67-86 in Democratic politics in a European Union under stress, edited by O. Cramme and S. B. Hobolt. Oxford: Oxford University Press., 2016Kriesi, H. and E. Grande. 2016. "The euro crisis: A boost to the politicization of European integration?". Pp. 240-278 in Politicizing Europe, edited by S. Hutter, E. Grande and H. Kriesi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.). Poor economic performance and particularly high levels of unemployment are considered a (mildly) favourable opportunity for populist parties in Europe (Kriesi and Pappas 2015Kriesi, H. and T. S. Pappas (eds.). 2015. European populism in the shadow of the Great Recession. Colchester: ECPR Press.), and can also explain the rise of hard Eurosceptic parties (Nicoli 2017Nicoli, F. 2017. "Hard-line Euroscepticism and the Eurocrisis: Evidence from a Panel Study of 108 Elections Across Europe". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 55(2):312-331. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcms.12463.; Schraff 2017Schraff, D. 2017. "Regional redistribution and Eurosceptic voting". Journal of European Public Policy 26(1):83-105. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2017.1394901.). Building upon the fundamental work by Szczerbiak and Taggart (2000Szczerbiak, A. P. and P. Taggart. 2000. "Opposing Europe: Party systems and opposition to the Union, the Euro and Europeanisation". Sussex European Institute. Working Paper. Official URL: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/sei/documents/wp36.pdf. and 2008Szczerbiak, A. P. and P. Taggart. 2008. Opposing Europe? The comparative party politics of Euroscepticism: Volume 2: Comparative and theoretical perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.), the term ‘Euroscepticism’ is used in this article as an encompassing one. Therefore, Euroscepticism expresses the idea of contingent or qualified opposition, but also incorporates outright and unqualified opposition to the process of European integration. Both populism and Euroscepticism have increased their importance after the Great Recession (Pirro, Taggart and van Kessel 2018Pirro, A. L., P. Taggart and S. van Kessel. 2018. "The populist politics of Euroscepticism in times of crisis: Comparative conclusions". Politics 38(3):378-390. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395718784704.), but their coincidence does not seem to be purely temporal.

Research on party-based Euroscepticism suggests that parties on the extremes of the ideological spectrum, on both the left and the right, share (hard) Eurosceptic orientations (Hooghe and Marks 2005Hooghe, L. and G. Marks. 2005. "Calculation, community and cues public opinion on European integration". European Union Politics 6(4):419-443. https://doi.org/10.1177/1465116505057816., De Vries and Edwards 2009Vries, C. E. de and E. E. Edwards. 2009. "Taking Europe to its extremes: Extremist parties and public Euroscepticism". Party Politics 15(1):5-28. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068808097889.), which can occur for both ideological and strategic reasons (Taggart 1998Taggart, P. 1998. "A touchstone of dissent: Euroscepticism in contemporary Western European party systems". European Journal of Political Research 33(3):363-388. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.00387., Ray 2007Ray, L. 2007. "Mainstream euroscepticism: trend or oxymoron?". Acta Politica 42(2-3):153-172. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.ap.5500189.). Since Rooduijn and Akkerman (2017Rooduijn, M. and T. Akkerman. 2017. "Flank attacks: Populism and left-right radicalism in Western Europe". Party Politics 23(3):193-204. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068815596514.) demonstrated that populist parties are largely located at the extremes of the political ideological axis, it seems reasonable to assume that they are Eurosceptic. From this perspective, it is not left or right ideology that influences the Euroscepticism of populist parties, but its radical ideological stance. By adopting radical positions, populist parties look to differentiate themselves from mainstream ones, appealing to voters dissatisfied with the status quo (Taggart 1998Taggart, P. 1998. "A touchstone of dissent: Euroscepticism in contemporary Western European party systems". European Journal of Political Research 33(3):363-388. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.00387.: 382). However, beyond strategic reasons, populism has its own ideological connections with Euroscepticism. First, populist parties display a strong anti-elite component in their discourses, and may find that politicians in Brussels are equally part of an elite separated from the people and ‘evil’ in their actions. Second, Euroscepticism might be a reaction against national-level elites, accused of transferring too much power to the EU (Rooduijn 2018Rooduijn, M. 2018. "What unites the voter bases of populist parties? Comparing the electorates of 15 populist parties". European Political Science Review 10(3):351-368.).

Whereas the general connection between populism and Euroscepticism seems well defined, the relational nature of the puzzle (Harmsen 2010Harmsen, R. 2010. "Concluding Comment: On Understanding the Relationship between Populism and Euroscepticism". Perspectives on European Politics and Society 11(3):333-341. https://doi.org/10.1080/15705854.2010.503036.) strongly advises for a more fine-grained consideration of these links, testing the stability of these theories across different contexts. In particular, we aim to study the relationship between populism and Euroscepticism in southern Europe as we expect that the more varied nature of populist parties in this region will shed light on the theoretical relations between populism and Euroscepticism. Here, we fundamentally refer to the different types of populist parties as a function of their ideological preferences. Above all, we are interested in how left and right-wing populist parties express their preferences towards the EU.

 

THICK IDEOLOGIES AND EUROSCEPTICISM. WHY IS SOUTHERN EUROPE DIFFERENT? Top

Only a decade ago, Southern Europe was a fertile terrain for pro-European orientations in party systems (Llamazares and Gramacho 2007Llamazares, I. and W. Gramacho. 2007. "Eurosceptics among Euroenthusiasts: An analysis of Southern European public opinions". Acta Politica 42(2-3):211-232. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.ap.5500180., Verney 2011Verney, S. 2011. "Euroscepticism in Southern Europe: A diachronic perspective". South European Society and Politics 16(1):1-29. https://doi.org/10.1080/13608746.2010.570124., Conti 2003Conti, N. 2003. "Party attitudes to European integration: A longitudinal analysis of the Italian case". EPERN Working Paper nº 13. Brighton, UK: Sussex European Institute.). However, this scenario of Euro-enthusiast leanings was increasingly undermined over this past decade (Serricchio, Tsakatika and Quaglia, 2013Serricchio, F., M. Tsakatika and L. Quaglia. 2013. "Euroscepticism and the global financial crisis". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 51(1):51-64. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2012.02299.x.; Usherwood and Startin 2013Usherwood, S. and N. Startin. 2013. "Euroscepticism as a persistent phenomenon". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 51(1):1-16. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2012.02297.x.; Ehrmann, Soudan and Stracca 2013Ehrmann, M., M. Soudan and L. Stracca. 2013. "Explaining European Union citizens’ trust in the European Central Bank in normal and crisis times". The Scandinavian Journal of Economics 115(3):781-807. https://doi.org/10.1111/sjoe.12020.; Roth, Gros and Nowak-Lehmann 2014Roth, F., D. Gros and D. F. Nowak-Lehmann. 2014. "Crisis and citizens’ trust in the European Central Bank. Panel data evidence for the euro area, 1999–2012". Journal of European Integration 36(3):303-320. https://doi.org/10.1080/07036337.2014.886400.; Braun and Tausendpfund, 2014Braun, D. and M. Tausendpfund. 2014. "The impact of the Euro crisis on citizens’ support for the European Union". Journal of European Integration 36(3):231-245. https://doi.org/10.1080/07036337.2014.885751.; Dotti Sani and Magistro, 2016Dotti Sani, G. M. and B. Magistro. 2016. "Increasingly unequal? The economic crisis, social inequalities and trust in the European Parliament in 20 European countries". European Journal of Political Research 55(2):246-264. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12126.). South European governments have been experiencing a series of critical elections since the beginning of the Great Recession, which sometimes even lead to a party system collapse (Bosco and Verney 2012Bosco, A. and S. Verney. 2012. "Electoral epidemic: The political cost of economic crisis in Southern Europe, 2010–11". South European Society and Politics 17(2):129-154. https://doi.org/10.1080/13608746.2012.747272., Morlino and Raniolo 2017Morlino, L. and F. Raniolo. 2017. The impact of the economic crisis on South European democracies. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.). The attribution of responsibility for the crisis and the implementation of adjustment policies, for which the EU is a principal actor, were influencing factors in the transformation of party systems (Magalhães 2013Magalhães, P. C. 2013. "Crisis and party system change: Greece, Portugal and others". Retrieved from http://www.pedro-magalhaes.org/crisis-and-party-system-change-greece-portugal-and-others/.). Crucially, the framing of the Euro-crisis in the South permitted radical left parties (populist or not), to gain the major share of the discontent vote, even in countries where populist right parties existed prior to the crisis, as in Italy and Greece (Hooghe and Marks 2018Hooghe, L. and G. Marks. 2018. "Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage". Journal of European Public Policy 25(1):109-135. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2017.1310279.: 125).

The rise of Euroscepticism in the region’s party systems is driven by parties that changed the pattern of consensus towards the EU from the left. This is illustrated by the emergence of parties such as Podemos in Spain, Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal and specially SYRIZA in Greece, where a renewed debate on the importance of the EU in the domestic public policies contributed to the emergence of a new division around the issue of the EU/IMF bailouts (Teperoglou and Tsatsanis 2014Teperoglou, E. and E. Tsatsanis. 2014. "Dealignment, de-legitimation and the implosion of the two-party system in Greece: the earthquake election of 6 May 2012". Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 24(2):222-242. https://doi.org/10.1080/17457289.2014.892495.; Verney 2015Verney, S. 2015. "Waking the ‘sleeping giant’ or expressing domestic dissent? Mainstreaming Euroscepticism in crisis-stricken Greece". International Political Science Review 36(3):279-295. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192512115577146.). Nevertheless, the Italian supply-side differs from the general South European pattern: it is more Eurosceptic because of the Lega Nord’s (LN) transit towards hard Euroscepticism (Gómez-Reino 2017Gómez-Reino Cachafeiro, M. 2017. Nationalisms in the European arena. Trajectories of transnational party coordination. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.), and also due to the discourse of the new Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) - the only party that has used both economic and cultural framings against the European Union (Pirro, Taggart and van Kessel 2018Pirro, A. L., P. Taggart and S. van Kessel. 2018. "The populist politics of Euroscepticism in times of crisis: Comparative conclusions". Politics 38(3):378-390. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395718784704.: 10).

Political science scholars are aware that populism, as a thin ideology, only refers to a limited number of aspects in the political realm. Hence, populism is normally attached to other thick ideologies, to get a complete discourse that speaks to a broad audience in the electoral competition (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2013bMudde, C. and C. Rovira Kaltwasser. 2013b. "Populism". In The oxford handbook of political ideologies, edited by M. Freeden, L. T. Sargent and M. Stears. Oxford: OUP Oxford.; Aslanidis 2016Aslanidis, P. 2016. "Is populism an ideology? A refutation and a new perspective". Political Studies 64(1_suppl):88-104. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9248.12224.; Rensmann, De Lange and Couperus 2017Rensmann, L., S. de Lange and S. Couperus. 2017. "Editorial to the Issue on Populism and the Remaking of Il Liberal Democracy in Europe". Politics and Governance 5(4):106-111. http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.1328.; Huber and Schimpf 2017Huber, R. A. and C. H. Schimpf. 2017. "On the distinct effects of left-wing and right-wing populism on democratic quality". Politics and Governance 5(4):146-165. https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.919.). A fundamental thick ideological dimension is the political ideological one, which means that populist parties can be found at the right (Mudde 2007Mudde, C. 2007. Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.), left (March 2011March, L. 2011. Radical left parties in Europe. Oxon: Routledge.) or even centre (Havlik and Stanley 2015Havlík, V. and B. Stanley. 2015. "New populist parties in Central and Eastern Europe: Non-ideological or centrist?". Conference Solving the Puzzles of Populism. London, UK.) of the ideological spectrum. This has important consequences in terms of policy proposals, as the sub-types of populism provided by Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser (2013aMudde, C. and C. Rovira Kaltwasser. 2013a. "Exclusionary vs. inclusionary populism: Comparing contemporary Europe and Latin America". Government and Opposition 48(2):147-174. https://doi.org/10.1017/gov.2012.11.) identify inclusive and exclusive forms of populism that would correspond, respectively, to the left (including the poor) and the right (excluding foreigners).[2] Mény and Surel’s (2000Mény, Y. and Y. Surel. 2000. Par le peuple, pour le peuple : Le populisme et les démocraties. Paris: Fayard.) three-fold conception of the people: the political (people as sovereign), the cultural (people as nation) and the economic (people as a class), is of great help to further explore these left/right-wing differences.

In Europe, references to the nation are often characteristic of the populist right, while the notion of people as a class is stressed by left-wing populism. Thus, left and right populist parties differ at least in their discursive emphasis. While left-wing populism tends to focus on economic issues (March 2011March, L. 2011. Radical left parties in Europe. Oxon: Routledge.), the right-wing populist parties emphasize cultural issues as authoritarianism and nationalism (Mudde 2007Mudde, C. 2007. Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.). Populist right-wing parties stress their anti-establishment rhetoric, blaming established parties for not solving the problems derived from immigration. Left-wing populist parties connect their political anti-establishment stance to economic issues, arguing that “hardworking, ordinary citizens are betrayed by the political-economic power elite” (Rooduijn and Akkerman 2017Rooduijn, M. and T. Akkerman. 2017. "Flank attacks: Populism and left-right radicalism in Western Europe". Party Politics 23(3):193-204. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068815596514.: 200).

Among the authors that highlight that Eurosceptic positions are expected both from left and right populist parties (Hooghe, Marks and Wilson 2002Hooghe, L., G. Marks and C.J. Wilson. 2002. "Does Left/Right Structure Party Positions on European Integration?". Comparative Political Studies 35(8):965-989. https://doi.org/10.1177/001041402236310.; Rooduijn 2018Rooduijn, M. 2018. "What unites the voter bases of populist parties? Comparing the electorates of 15 populist parties". European Political Science Review 10(3):351-368.), Rensmann’s (2017Rensmann, L. 2017. "The noisy counter-revolution: Understanding the cultural conditions and dynamics of populist politics in Europe in the digital age". Politics and Governance 5(4):123-135. http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.1123.) position should be highlighted. Rensmann argues that distinctions between left and right populism based on nativism versus cosmopolitanism are difficult to empirically substantiate in the European context. Accordingly, he considers that opposition to non-native groups representing globalization is not limited to right-wing populist parties (Rensmann 2017Rensmann, L. 2017. "The noisy counter-revolution: Understanding the cultural conditions and dynamics of populist politics in Europe in the digital age". Politics and Governance 5(4):123-135. http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.1123.: 125). Following his argument, European populist parties, despite being left or right, share not only the discontent claims against established politics, but also a homogeneous notion of cultural identity – anti-pluralistic and anti-universalistic– illustrated by their opposition to the “globalized immigration society and their elites” (Rensmann 2017Rensmann, L. 2017. "The noisy counter-revolution: Understanding the cultural conditions and dynamics of populist politics in Europe in the digital age". Politics and Governance 5(4):123-135. http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.1123.: 124-125).

Against this, we join De Vries and Edwards (2009Vries, C. E. de and E. E. Edwards. 2009. "Taking Europe to its extremes: Extremist parties and public Euroscepticism". Party Politics 15(1):5-28. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068808097889.), Halikiopoulou, Nanou and Vasilopolou (2012Halikiopoulou, D., K. Nanou and S. Vasilopoulou. 2012. "The paradox of nationalism: The common denominator of radical right and radical left euroscepticism". European Journal of Political Research 51(4):504-539. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6765.2011.02050.x.), Van Elsas et al. (2016Elsas, E. van, A. Hakhverdian and W. van der Brug. 2016. "United against a Common Foe? The Nature and Origins of Euroscepticism among Left-Wing and Right-Wing Citizens". West European Politics 39(6):1181-1204. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2016.1175244.) and Lisi and Tatsanis (2017Lisi, M. and E. Tatsanis. 2017. "Against Europe? Untangling the Links between Ideology and Euroscepticism". Paper prepared for the 113th APSA Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, August 31-September 3, 2017.), in pointing out that ideology matters for the concrete expression of critical attitudes towards the EU also in populist parties. This is so, we argue, because the different roots of distrust towards the EU ultimately condition the intensity and type of anti-European discourses. Whereas right-wing populist parties’ discourses are directed against the foundational pillars of the organization (integration and borders, see Hobolt and Tilley 2016Hobolt, S. B. and J. Tilley. 2016. "Fleeing the centre: The rise of challenger parties in the aftermath of the euro crisis". West European Politics 39(5):971-991. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2016.1181871.; Hooghe and Marks 2018Hooghe, L. and G. Marks. 2018. "Cleavage theory meets Europe’s crises: Lipset, Rokkan, and the transnational cleavage". Journal of European Public Policy 25(1):109-135. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2017.1310279. or Börzel and Risse, 2018Börzel, T. A. and T. Risse. 2018. "From the euro to the Schengen crises: European integration theories, politicization, and identity politics". Journal of European Public Policy 25(1):83-108. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501763.2017.1310281.), left-wing populist parties concentrate their criticisms on the current economic structure of the organization (austerity and liberalism, see Gómez-Reino and Plaza-Colodro 2018Gómez-Reino Cachafeiro, M. and C. Plaza-Colodro. 2018. "Populist Euroscepticism in Iberian party systems". Politics 38(3):344-360. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395718762667.). Even if Kopecký and Mudde state that radical left-wing parties can share a wish for international cooperation with a Europhobe vision of the EU (Kopecký and Mudde 2002Kopecký, P. and C. Mudde. 2002. "The two sides of Euroscepticism: Party positions on European integration in East Central Europe". European Union Politic 3(3):297-326. https://doi.org/10.1177/1465116502003003002.: 301), we suggest that economic and social criticism towards the EU, as profound as they can be, is essentially reconcilable with an intensely reformed EU (see Scharpf 2002Scharpf, F.W. 2002. "The European Social Model". Journal of Common Market Studies 40(4):645-670. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-5965.00392.). On the contrary, we join Zaslove (2004Zaslove, A. 2004. "The Dark Side of European Politics: Unmasking the Radical Right". Journal of European Integration 26(1):61-81. https://doi.org/10.1080/0703633042000197799. and 2008Zaslove, A. 2008. "Here to Stay? Populism as a New Party Type". European Review 16(3):319-336. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1062798708000288.) in proposing that a fundamental contradiction is likely to occur between right-wing populist parties and the EU.

Research on party-based Euroscepticism involves two different perspectives - what Mudde calls Sussex and North Carolina schools (Mudde 2012Mudde, C. 2012. "The comparative study of party-based Euroscepticism: The Sussex versus the North Carolina School". East European Politics 28(2):193-202. https://doi.org/10.1080/21599165.2012.669735.). These schools differ in definition, scope and findings on the parties’ position on European integration. North Carolina’s definition considers party-positioning towards the European Integration process as a continuum that ranges from ‘very positive to very negative dispositions towards European integration, its policies, its institutions or its principles’ (Hooghe and Marks 2007Hooghe, L. and G. Marks. 2007. "Sources of Euroscepticism". Acta Politica 42(2-3):119-127. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.ap.5500192.:120). On the other hand, the Sussex school’s interpretation of Euroscepticism set the main difference between hard and soft Euroscepticism by attending to the feasible incorporation of the parties’ criticism to the organic and legislative structure of the EU (Mudde 2012Mudde, C. 2012. "The comparative study of party-based Euroscepticism: The Sussex versus the North Carolina School". East European Politics 28(2):193-202. https://doi.org/10.1080/21599165.2012.669735.). Delving into this second approach is of particular interest for our relational thesis.

Building upon the hard and soft notions of Euroscepticism (Szczerbiak and Taggart 2000Szczerbiak, A. P. and P. Taggart. 2000. "Opposing Europe: Party systems and opposition to the Union, the Euro and Europeanisation". Sussex European Institute. Working Paper. Official URL: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/sei/documents/wp36.pdf.), differences have been found between attitudes of opposition towards integration as a principle (general practice of European integration), and opposition towards the specific ideas of integration underlying the EU, to produce a typology that distinguishes between Euro-enthusiasm, Euro-rejection, Euroscepticism and Euro-pragmatism (Kopecký and Mudde 2002Kopecký, P. and C. Mudde. 2002. "The two sides of Euroscepticism: Party positions on European integration in East Central Europe". European Union Politic 3(3):297-326. https://doi.org/10.1177/1465116502003003002.). Euro-enthusiasts hold a positive view of the principles of integration, and also positively assess current policies at the EU level. Euro-rejects occupy the opposite pole, being both Europhobe (regarding EU main ideas) and Euro-pessimist (dissatisfied with where the EU is going). Eurosceptics agree with the general principles of the EU, while at the same time disapprove of the current state of things and direction of the EU. Lastly, Euro-pragmatists do not have a strong opinion about the EU principles, but still positively consider its results (ibid 2002: 302-4). Together with other efforts such as those by Flood (2002Flood, C. 2002. "Euroscepticism: A problematic concept illustrated with particular reference to France". 32nd Annual UACES Conference, Belfast, 2-4 September 2002.), Wessels (2007Wessels, B. 2007. "Discontent and European Identity: Three Types of Euroscepticism". Acta Politica 42(2-3):287-306. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.ap.5500188.), Vasilopoulou (2009Vasilopoulou, S. 2009. "Varieties of Euroscepticism: the case of the European extreme right". Journal of Contemporary European Research 5(1):3-23. Available at: http://www.jcer.net/index.php/jcer/article/view/106.) or Serricchio, Tsakatika and Quaglia (2013Serricchio, F., M. Tsakatika and L. Quaglia. 2013. "Euroscepticism and the global financial crisis". JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 51(1):51-64. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2012.02299.x.), these classifications share an important implication: relevant information is missing if we refer to Euroscepticism as a phenomenon structured along a single dimension.

Therefore, and even if both left and right populist parties may initially display general Eurosceptic positions, we expect that their thick ideological profiles determine different attitudinal approaches to the EU. Therefore, we should see that:

H1a. Left-wing populist parties, although at first sight Eurosceptic, do not question all the arrangements and the very structure of the EU as a whole.

H1b. Right-wing populist parties hold radical positions against the EU, questioning the principles of the organization.

 

DATA: POPULIST PARTIES AND THEIR ELECTORAL PLATFORMS Top

Crucial for our study is the selection of parties considered as populist in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Whereas it is true that no single dataset is available to measure populist discourses across Europe, we can rely on previous works for the operationalization of this selection criterion. Here, we have selected those parties that are considered populist by at least one author, and for which we have found no major dispute regarding their populist nature. Departing from this, and although not all the parties are equally consistent in their utilization of populist statements, we have identified the following forces that will be labelled as populist for this research: Anexartitoi Ellines (ANEL) and Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás (SYRIZA) in Greece; Forza Italia (FI), Lega Nord (LN) and Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) in Italy; Bloco de Esquerda (BE) and Partido Comunista Português (PCP) in Portugal; Izquierda Unida (IU) and Podemos (Ps) in Spain. Table 1 contains the list of references used to justify the inclusion of each party in our selection. With this, we do not intend to provide an exhaustive and final list of populist parties, but a transparent justification of the selected forces.

Table 1. Identification of populist parties based on literature review

Identification of populist parties based on literature review

Source: Author's elaboration.

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Party-level data for positions towards the EU and ideological profiles were extracted from the Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES). Due to reasons linked to the availability of the questions of interest, we selected the 2014 CHES dataset (Polk et al. 2017Polk, J., J. Rovny, R. Bakker, E. Edwards, L. Hooghe, S. Jolly and M. Steenbergen. 2017. "Explaining the salience of anti-elitism and reducing political corruption for political parties in Europe with the 2014 Chapel Hill Expert Survey data". Research and Politics 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/2053168016686915.).[3] Descriptive statistics for each populist party can be found in Table 2. The first group of variables identifies political parties’ ideology, and contains data on their general left-right profile (lrgen), as well as their economic (lrecon) and socio-cultural (galtan)[4] positioning. The former two variables reflect the multidimensional nature of ideology, separating economic from socio-cultural aspects. The second group of variables refers to parties’ position towards the EU and contains five questions: parties’ general position towards the EU (position); parties’ positive or negative assessment of country membership in the EU (benefit); parties’ position towards the rights of the European Parliament (ep); parties’ willingness to accept EU intervention in national budget matters (budgets); parties’ position towards a EU enlargement to Turkey (Turkey).

In terms of operationalization, we consider that position towards the EU, and assessment of the benefits of belonging to the EU, are a good reflection of the general perception of the organization. The specific capacities of the EP, the (un)constrained power of the EU to influence national budgets, and the EU enlargement to Turkey reflect assessments of particular policies, and are expected to give us a more fine-grained distinction of Eurosceptic positions. Whereas the first indicator measures to what extent populist parties are willing to favour the powers of the European Parliament, the only majoritarian EU institution directly elected by citizen vote (system-related), the second assess the extent to which parties support the intervention of the EU on national arenas (economic sovereignty-related). As for the last question, we understand that it indicates that the party perceives the basis of the EU project as valid, as it seems largely incompatible that parties negating the validity of the supranational project are willing to expand the political community to new members. In that sense, positive attitudes towards the enlargement could be read as supporting the organization. However, positions about the enlargement towards Turkey also reflect Taggart’s (1998Taggart, P. 1998. "A touchstone of dissent: Euroscepticism in contemporary Western European party systems". European Journal of Political Research 33(3):363-388. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.00387.) different sources of criticism in terms of the EU being too exclusive or too inclusive, and also of “who belongs to us” (identity politics-related). Thus, this question could also be interpreted in terms of support towards EU policies, as the negotiations with Turkey were active until 2016.

Table 2. Descriptive statistics

Descriptive statistics

Source: Polk et al. (2017).

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As we propose a study characterized by a small number of cases, we will prioritize the presentation of data in easily interpretable two-dimension scatter plots, recurring to theoretical arguments that build upon our theoretical expectations. In doing so, we follow a comparative approach in the terms defined by Collier (1993Collier, D. 1993. "The Comparative Method". Pp. 105-119 in Political Science: The State of the Discipline II, edited by A.W Finifter. American Political Science Association.), and we are aware of the limitations this method implies regarding generalization (ibid 1993: 106-107). Nevertheless, it seems of particular interest in view of our aims of complementing existing theories, and pointing out how general approaches might be enriched from considering an additional angle of the relation between populism and Euroscepticism.

 

DOES HOST IDEOLOGY MATTER? LEFT-RIGHT POSITIONING ON POPULIST PARTIES’ EUROSCEPTICISM Top

Left-Right-wing Populism and Euroscepticism in Southern Europe

Beyond exploring mere inter-group differences between left-wing and right-wing forces (and considering the heterogeneity of positions and the number of cases included), it seems appropriate to recur to an individual analysis of the parties on each of the selected dimensions. For that, two different scatter-plots will be presented in each dimension, containing populist parties’ position towards the EU dimensions (vertical axis) and position on the left-right scale (horizontal axis).[5] In each figure the left field contains the distribution of parties classified according to their economic ideology, whereas the right one classifies them as a function of GAL-TAN ideology. The order of the figures follows the data and methods section: position towards the EU (Figure 1); benefits of the EU for the country (Figure 2); position towards the powers of the EP (Figure 3); position towards budget intervention (Figure 4); position towards EU enlargement to Turkey (Figure 5).[6]

Figure 1. Populist parties’ General Position towards the EU

Populist parties’ General Position towards the EU

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Figure 2. Populist parties’ assessment of the benefits of the EU

Populist parties’ assessment of the benefits of the EU

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According to our theoretical framework, populist parties are expected to share a general Eurosceptic position towards the EU. Surprisingly, we can see in Figure 1 that two populist parties do not hold a negative general position towards the EU (the Spanish IU and Podemos). As for the rest of populist parties, it is true that they all share rather negative visions of the EU, with no obvious clustering between left and right-wing forces taking place. The Italian FI shows similar values to SYRIZA and BE, whereas the most Eurosceptic parties are ideologically very heterogeneous (even more if we focus on the economic dimension). The second question that allows for a general assessment of the EU is that which reflects political parties’ perception of the EU: being beneficial for the country (1); neither beneficial nor harmful (2); or not beneficial for the country (3) (Figure 2). It is not surprising to see that none of the populist parties considered EU membership in purely positive terms. Again, right and left-wing populist parties cluster together with no clear distinction between them. Overall, and despite slight differences between forces, it seems that populist parties indeed tend to be critical of the EU, and that no straight line can be drawn from one party’s ideological stance to its general position towards the EU (left-wing populist parties can be mildly or radically against the EU, and the same goes for the right-wing populist ones). This situation reflects reasonably well the first part of our H1a and H1b statements, from where we aim to consider more fine-grained differences. To do that, we recur to populist parties’ positioning on three key aspects of the EU: the powers of the EP, the EU intervention in budget matters and the enlargement to Turkey (Figure 3 to Figure 5).

The question about the powers of the EP can be read as the willingness of a certain party to expand the democratic nature of the EU system and its institutions. Here, a left-right descending diagonal line becomes more apparent, in particular when the GAL-TAN dimension is considered. This is in accordance with our theoretical expectations, as left-wing populist forces, even if they are critical of the EU, seem willing to strength transnational institutions in democratic terms, even if that means giving up some (political) sovereignty. However, this should not be read as left-wing populist parties willing to transfer all kind of powers to the EU. Figure 4 clearly shows that neither right nor left populist parties in Southern Europe are willing to allow the intervention of the EU in budget matters. Hence, left-wing populist parties seem to agree with statements that support the idea of a more powerful EU in political terms (in opposition to right-wing populist parties), whereas both left and right-wing populist parties strongly oppose giving up economic sovereignty.

Figure 3. Populist parties’ positions towards the powers of the European Parliament

Populist parties’ positions towards the powers of the European Parliament.

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Figure 4. Populist parties’ positions on Budget intervention

Populist parties’ positions on Budget intervention

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Our last indicator refers to the enlargement of the EU towards Turkey. A descending diagonal line can be observed in Figure 5, which should be interpreted as left-wing populist forces being more in favour of Turkey joining the EU. We understand this as an indicator of left populist parties supporting enlargement in general, and a multicultural one in particular (that is, in inclusive terms). As we have already seen in Figure 3, thick ideologies seem to make a difference in the fine-grained perception of the EU.

Figure 5. Populist parties’ position on EU enlargement towards Turkey

Populist parties’ position on EU enlargement towards Turkey

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Populism and Euroscepticism. Relational beyond thick ideologies?

We so far proposed that populist parties’ thick ideological profile is essential to unravel different attitudes towards the EU that may be hidden behind a general Eurosceptic posture. Although radicalism plays a role in separating populist from mainstream parties in their attitudes towards the EU, the specific ideological pole occupied by populist forces is also important to distinguish how (and how much) they dislike the EU. However, to what extent is our argument fully independent from the regional particularities of Southern Europe? Besides being traditional allies of the European Union, Southern European countries have their own group-dynamics in economic and political terms, and a textbook example of North-South differences is the distinct impact of the recent European crisis, arguably a major determinant of political attitudes towards Europe in recent times. If the relationship suggested in H1a and H1b is truly dependent on the populist parties’ ideological positioning, and assuming that the content of the left-right axis is comparable across countries, we should see that left and right-wing populist parties outside Southern Europe also behave as expected in H1a and H1b. Looking to test the external validity of our argument, we incorporated in the analysis two more countries in which left and right-wing populist discourses are present: France (Front National, FN and France Insoumise, LFI) and The Netherlands (Party for Freedom, PVV and Dutch Socialist Party, SP).[7]

Regarding general positions, the main observation remains that populist parties normally share critical views of the EU, and that no major differences can be extracted from their ideological positioning (figures included in the online appendix). Furthermore, left and right-wing populist parties in France and The Netherlands also share a very critical view of the EU intervention in national budgets. This position is not common to all political parties in the countries analysed, and refers to a fundamental consideration of economic sovereignty for populist parties that is not necessarily determined by the intervention of the Troika in Southern Europe (figures in the online appendix). The most interesting indicators for our comparison are those referring to powers of the European Parliament and enlargement towards Turkey (Figure 6 and Figure 7).

Figure 6. EP powers. South European populist parties plus FN, LFI, PVV and SP

EP powers. South European populist parties plus FN, LFI, PVV and SP

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Figure 7. Enlargement towards Turkey. South European populist parties plus FN, LFI, PVV and SP

Enlargement towards Turkey. South European populist parties plus FN, LFI, PVV and SP

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What we first observe in these figures is that French and Dutch populist right-wing parties cluster together with the other right-wing populist forces from Southern Europe, holding strong positions against the EU. However, the most important part for the generalizability of our argument is extracted from the location of left-wing populist forces, PG and SP, in figures 6 and 7. Whereas these two parties are located closer to other left-wing forces in relation to an EU enlargement to Turkey (and are as inclusive in identity terms as their South European counterparts), they also come closer to populist right-wing forces when assessing the powers of the EP. Although this has implications for our research, in the sense that the relational nature of the puzzle mentioned in the theoretical section is even more complex than we expected, it does not imply that thick ideologies have nothing to say about the relation between populism and Euroscepticism once regional dynamics are considered. For example, if we look at CHES data for the years 2010 and 2006 (with a more reduced sample of populist parties), we see that left and right-wing populist parties also had an indistinguishable general position towards the EU (mostly negative). However, if more detailed indicators are considered, left-wing populist parties differ from populist right-wing ones. In 2006 and 2010, the former were also more in favour of the EP powers and of the EU enlargement towards Turkey, which refers to a long-standing link between left-wing populist forces and a nuanced Eurosceptic position (figures to be found in the online appendix). Although strategic considerations may help to explain differences in the assessment of EP powers, the thick ideological positioning matters when observing populist parties’ attitudes towards the EU even outside Southern Europe.

A different profile? Recapitulation

The previous results are largely in accordance with our theoretical expectations, as left-wing populist forces (also critical of the EU) seem willing to strengthen transnational institutions in democratic terms (EP), even if that means giving up some (political) sovereignty. Additionally, they also seem supportive of an inclusive (multicultural) European enlargement. The question remains however, if these differences are enough to speak of a different type of Euroscepticism. That is, does this different perception of the EP powers and the EU enlargement justify that we call left-wing populist parties less Eurosceptic or distinctly Eurosceptic?

In the same way as “[‘soft’] and ‘hard’ Euroscepticism do not do enough justice to the subtle, yet important, distinction between the ideas of European integration, on the one hand, and the European Union as the current embodiment of these ideas” (Kopecký and Mudde 2002Kopecký, P. and C. Mudde. 2002. "The two sides of Euroscepticism: Party positions on European integration in East Central Europe". European Union Politic 3(3):297-326. https://doi.org/10.1177/1465116502003003002.: 300), it is our understanding that the differences proposed in our article reflect subtle differences that are in line with the ideas of specific and diffuse support towards the EU (ibid 2002). Given that these differences seem significantly affected by thick ideologies, we argue that referring to left and right-wing populist parties as ‘Eurosceptic’ is not totally accurate, when the general level of Euroscepticism is left out.

Departing from the individual level, Boomgarden et al. (2011Boomgarden, H.J., A.R.T. Schuck, M. Elenbaas and C.H. de Vreese. 2011. "Mapping EU attitudes: Conceptual and empirical dimensions of Euroscepticism and EU support". European Union Politics 12(2):241-266.) already stressed the importance of clarifying the distinct dimensions comprised within the Eurosceptic category, ultimately referring to EU attitudes as a collection of multiple dimensions of attitudes (ibid 2011: 260). Therefore, and as useful as a broad understanding of Euroscepticism can be to foster dialogue and comparative efforts in the discipline, its relationship with populism seems well complemented by findings from studies allowing a more fine-grained approach to the key concepts: populism and Euroscepticism. It is in this regard that we believe our research to be more relevant, highlighting that right and left-wing populist parties actually differ when assessing EU performance (EP) and strengthening (enlargement). Ultimately, this distinction is pertinent to understanding the complexity of positions towards the EU, a multidimensional polity on its own (Boomgarden et al. 2011Boomgarden, H.J., A.R.T. Schuck, M. Elenbaas and C.H. de Vreese. 2011. "Mapping EU attitudes: Conceptual and empirical dimensions of Euroscepticism and EU support". European Union Politics 12(2):241-266.).

 

CONCLUSIONS Top

Our research shows that the study of populist parties in Southern Europe sheds light on the relation between populism and Euroscepticism, complementing recent efforts to disentangle this nexus by focusing on a geographical area that has been less explored, and whose populist ideological profile is more dominated by left-wing forces. In doing so, we delve into different subtypes of negative attitudes towards the EU, investigating to what extent political ideology shapes populist parties’ discourses towards the EU.

Overall, our article shows that left and right-wing populist parties share what may initially look to be a homogeneous Eurosceptic profile. However, further examination holds that left-wing populist parties hold more positive views of the EU in indicators related to the “political side” of the EU (powers of the European Parliament and enlargement). This is so, we argue, because the different roots of distrust towards the EU ultimately condition the intensity and type of anti-European discourses also in populist parties. Whereas right-wing populist parties’ discourses are directed against the foundational pillars of the organization (integration and borders), left-wing populist parties concentrate their criticisms on the current economic structure of the organization (economic intervention). Consequently, the demands of the latter are susceptible to be integrated within the frame of the EU, whereas the former’s question the EU itself.

Returning to the goals of the article, it is not our intention to question the general relationship observed between Euroscepticism and populism, which has been constructed after thorough analyses and with broad empirical support. However, even if populist parties indeed tend to be more Eurosceptic than mainstream political parties, populist parties’ assessment of the EU seems mediated by thick ideology. This has theoretical implications, but it is also relevant for understanding the practical consequences that the success of different populist parties may have in terms of EU legitimacy and support. Although some authors consider thick (host) ideologies when studying populist parties, further empirical works may benefit from taking into account the host ideology together with a broader understanding of what being Eurosceptic means. At the individual level, this distinction may shed light on why Euroscepticism is not one of the features uniting voters of populist parties.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTSTop

We would like to thank the coordinators of this special issue and two anonymous reviewers of the Revista International de Sociologia for their valuable comments. Special thanks go to Ciaran O’Flynn. Carolina Plaza-Colodro and Margarita Gómez-Reino want to thank the Spanish Ministry of Economy for the funding received under the Research Grant CSO2013-47667-P and Hugo Marcos-Marne thanks the University of St.Gallen for the funding received under grant IPF-1031522. 

 

NOTES Top

[1]

The other country typically considered in studies of Southern Europe, Cyprus, has been left aside due the lack of relevant populist discourses.

[2]

For Huber and Schimpf (2017Huber, R. A. and C. H. Schimpf. 2017. "On the distinct effects of left-wing and right-wing populism on democratic quality". Politics and Governance 5(4):146-165. https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.919.) left-wing populist parties are more inclusive even considering two subdimensions of liberal democracy: political inclusion (minority rights) and mutual constraints.

[3]

The wording of the original questions, as well as the corresponding scales, can be found in the online appendix.

[4]

GAL-TAN stands for Green, Alternative, Libertarian (GAL) – Traditional, Authoritarian, Nationalist (TAN). For more information see Hooghe et al. (2002Hooghe, L., G. Marks and C.J. Wilson. 2002. "Does Left/Right Structure Party Positions on European Integration?". Comparative Political Studies 35(8):965-989. https://doi.org/10.1177/001041402236310.) or Polk et al. (2017Polk, J., J. Rovny, R. Bakker, E. Edwards, L. Hooghe, S. Jolly and M. Steenbergen. 2017. "Explaining the salience of anti-elitism and reducing political corruption for political parties in Europe with the 2014 Chapel Hill Expert Survey data". Research and Politics 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/2053168016686915.).

[5]

CDU is the name of the electoral coalition including PCP, together with the Green party, since 1987.

[6]

Original scales have been respected in the figures to improve readability and comparability. Excepting Figure 3 (ranging from 1 to 3) all the scales range from 1 to 7 (strongly opposed to strongly in favor, with 4 as neutral point).

[7]

For the definition of Front National as populist see Rooduijn (2018Rooduijn, M. 2018. "What unites the voter bases of populist parties? Comparing the electorates of 15 populist parties". European Political Science Review 10(3):351-368.); Van Hauwaert and Van Kessel (2018Hauwaert, S. M. van and S. van Kessel. 2018. "Beyond protest and discontent: A cross‐national analysis of the effect of populist attitudes and issue positions on populist party support". European Journal of Political Research 57(1):68-92. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12216.); Ivaldi (2018Ivaldi, G. 2018. "Contesting the EU in times of crisis: The Front National and politics of Euroscepticism in France". Politics 38(3):278-294. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395718766787.); Spierings and Zaslove (2017Spierings, N. and A. Zaslove. 2017. "Gender, populist attitudes, and voting: explaining the gender gap in voting for populist radical right and populist radical left parties". West European Politics 40(4):821-847. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2017.1287448.); Akkerman, de Lange and Rooduijn (2016Akkerman, T., S. de Lange and M. Rooduijn. 2016. Radical Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe: Into the Mainstream?. New York: Routledge. ISBN-13: 978-1138914988); Rooduijn, de Lange and van der Brug (2014Rooduijn, M., S. de Lange and W. van der Brug. 2014. "A populist Zeitgeist? Programmatic contagion by populist parties in Western Europe". Party Politics 20(4):563-575. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068811436065.); Mudde (2013Mudde, C. 2013. "Three decades of populist radical right parties in Western Europe: So what?". European Journal of Political Research 52(1):1-19. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6765.2012.02065.x.); Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser (2013aMudde, C. and C. Rovira Kaltwasser. 2013a. "Exclusionary vs. inclusionary populism: Comparing contemporary Europe and Latin America". Government and Opposition 48(2):147-174. https://doi.org/10.1017/gov.2012.11.); Bornschier (2012Bornschier, S. 2012. "Why a right-wing populist party emerged in France but not in Germany: Cleavages and actors in the formation of a new cultural divide". European Political Science Review 4(1):121-145. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1755773911000117.); Oesch 2008Oesch, D. 2008. "Explaining Workers’ Support for Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe: Evidence from Austria, Belgium, France, Norway, and Switzerland". International Political Science Review 29(3):349-373. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192512107088390. and Rydgren 2008Rydgren, J. 2008. "France: The Front National, Ethnonationalism and Populism". Pp. 166-180 in Twenty-First Century Populism, edited by D. Albertazzi and D. McDonnell. London: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230592100_11.. For LFI see Hanley (2018Hanley, D. 2018. "Left and Centre-Left in France—Endgame or Renewal?". Parliamentary Affairs 71(3):521-537. https://doi.org/10.1093/pa/gsx042.); Ivaldi (2018Ivaldi, G. 2018. "Contesting the EU in times of crisis: The Front National and politics of Euroscepticism in France". Politics 38(3):278-294. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395718766787.); Mény (2017Mény, Y. 2017. "A tale of party primaries and outsider candidates: the 2017 French presidential election". French Politics 15(3):265-278. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41253-017-0038-5.); Rensmann (2017Rensmann, L. 2017. "The noisy counter-revolution: Understanding the cultural conditions and dynamics of populist politics in Europe in the digital age". Politics and Governance 5(4):123-135. http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/pag.v5i4.1123.) and Damiani (2016Damiani, M. 2016. La sinistra radicale in Europa. Italia, Spagna, Francia, Germania. Roma: Donzelli.). For the Dutch SP see Pirro and Van Kessel (2018Pirro, A. and S. van Kessel. 2018. "Populist Eurosceptic trajectories in Italy and the Netherlands during the European crises". Politics 38(3):327-343. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395718769511.); Rooduijn (2018Rooduijn, M. 2018. "What unites the voter bases of populist parties? Comparing the electorates of 15 populist parties". European Political Science Review 10(3):351-368.); Otjes and Louwerse (2015Otjes, S. and T. Louwerse. 2015. "Populists in Parliament: Comparing Left-Wing and Right-Wing Populism in the Netherlands". Political Studies 63(1):60-79. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9248.12089.); Rooduijn, de Lange and van der Brug (2014Rooduijn, M., S. de Lange and W. van der Brug. 2014. "A populist Zeitgeist? Programmatic contagion by populist parties in Western Europe". Party Politics 20(4):563-575. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068811436065.) and March (2007March, L. 2007. "From Vanguard of the Proletariat to Vox Populi: Left-Populism as a ‘Shadow’ of Contemporary Socialism". SAIS Review 27(1):63-77. https://doi.org/10.1353/sais.2007.0013.). For the PVV see Pirro and Van Kessel (2018Pirro, A. and S. van Kessel. 2018. "Populist Eurosceptic trajectories in Italy and the Netherlands during the European crises". Politics 38(3):327-343. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395718769511.); Rooduijn (2018Rooduijn, M. 2018. "What unites the voter bases of populist parties? Comparing the electorates of 15 populist parties". European Political Science Review 10(3):351-368.); Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser (2015Mudde, C. and C. Rovira Kaltwasser. 2015. "Vox populi or vox masculini? Populism and gender in Northern Europe and South America". Patterns of Prejudice 49(1-2):16-36. https://doi.org/10.1080/0031322X.2015.1014197.); Rooduijn, de Lange and van der Brug (2014Rooduijn, M., S. de Lange and W. van der Brug. 2014. "A populist Zeitgeist? Programmatic contagion by populist parties in Western Europe". Party Politics 20(4):563-575. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068811436065.); Akkerman (2011Akkerman, T. 2011. "Friend or foe? Right-wing populism and the popular press in Britain and the Netherlands". Journalism 12(8):931-945. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884911415972.) and Vossen (2011Vossen, K. 2011. "Populism in the Netherlands after Fortuyn: Rita Verdonk and Geert Wilders compared". Perspectives on European Politics and Society 11(1):22-39. https://doi.org/10.1080/15705850903553521.).

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHORSTop

CAROLINA PLAZA-COLODRO is PhD candidate at the University of Salamanca. She is part of the research project coordinated by Iván Llamazares ‘Economic crisis, social change and new political parties’ funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. She also belongs to the Comparative Politics permanent research group of the University of Salamanca and Teampopulism coordinated by Kirk Hawkins since 2016. Her research lines are related to the radical, populist and Eurosceptic reactions of political parties since the beginning of the Great Recession, with special emphasis on parties within the most financially affected countries. 


MARGARITA GÓMEZ-REINO is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) in Madrid. She is part of the research project coordinated by Iván Llamazares ‘Economic crisis, social change and new political parties’ funded by the Spanish Ministry for the Economy and Competitiveness. She has been part of Teampopulism since 2014. Her areas of research include the study of nationalist parties in Europe, the Europeanization of parties and movements and populist parties. She has recently published Nationalisms in the European Arena: Trajectories of Transnational Party Coordination (Palgrave 2017). She is also the author of Ethnicity and Nationalism in Italian politics (2002) and co-editor with Lieven de Winter and Peter Lynch of Autonomist parties in Europe: Identity politics and the revival of the Territorial Cleavage (2006). She has published in journals and contributed to edited volumes on party Europeanization, populist parties and party voter links and European integration.


HUGO MARCOS-MARNE is postdoctoral research fellow (IPF) at the Chair of Comparative Politics in the University of St. Gallen. His research focuses on political behavior, national identities and populism. He has published on these topics at the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Ethnicities, National Identities, Revista de Estudios Politicos, Revista Internacional de Sociologia and Revista Española de Ciencia Politica among others. His current postdoc research is entitled: “National Minorities and Attitudes towards the European Union. Declining support in times of turmoil?” 



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