Publication details

Enemy at the Gates? Impact of a Geographically Concentrated Ethnic Minority on the Support of Far-Right Nationalist Parties


TÓTH Michal SPÁČ Peter SAX Ondřej

Year of publication 2020
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
Description Studies on the support of far-right nationalist parties usually work with the assumption of ethnic competition between the majority and minority populations. The presence of ethnic out-group in close social and geographical surroundings may reinforce xenophobia and prejudice, which increases the sense of perceived threat to the majority. The results of research conducted mainly in Western European countries show that the presence of an ethnic minority in the vicinity of the majority population is indeed an important factor explaining the support of far-right parties (e.g., Golder 2003, Rydgren 2008, Rydgren and Ruth 2013). However, it is not yet very clear how the presence of an ethnic minority affects the propensity to vote for these parties since the existing results are rather mixed and based mainly on the phenomenon of immigration. This paper, therefore, focuses on the region of Central Europe, particularly on Slovakia, with its historically stable and geographically strongly concentrated Hungarian ethnic minority. Using the "halo effect hypothesis" (Bowyer 2008) and group threat theory (Bloom 2013), our paper verifies the assumption that the degree of closeness and distance between the majority and minority at the local level affects the support of far-right nationalist parties. Contrary to previous studies (e.g. Rydgren, Ruth 2013), we assume that the presence of an ethnic minority in the nearby area (inside or outside voters' neighborhood) is not in itself a sufficient explanatory factor for supporting the far right. We argue that the propensity to vote for the nationalist far-right party is determined by the interaction of the proportion of the ethnic minority living in the voters' own municipalities and the proportion of the ethnic minority living in neighboring municipalities. Based on the analysis of all municipalities in Slovakia (N = 2,926) we find that the increasing size of the ethnic minority population in neighboring municipalities deradicalizes purely ethnic Slovak municipalities. However, when members of ethnic minorities live directly in voters' municipality, and their portion exceeds a certain threshold, the situation turns opposite, and the willingness to support a far-right nationalist party is growing with rising share of minority population in the neighboring towns. These results are in contrast to previous findings and the assumptions of the 'halo effect' and suggest that the support for the nationalist far-right strongly depends on the specific local context.

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