Careless Whisper: Political Elite Discourses Activate National Identities for Far-right Voting Preferences

Antonia C. May & Christian S. Czymara

Published in Nations and Nationalism.


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APA citation: May, A. C., & Czymara, C. S. (2023). Careless whisper: Political elite discourses activate national identities for far‐right voting preferences. Nations and Nationalism.


While exclusionary national identities are widespread among Europeans, relatively few people vote for the far right in most countries. Thus, an exclusionary identity in many cases does not lead to voting for the most nativist types of parties. We explain this empirical puzzle by showing that these identities need to be activated to become behaviourally relevant. To this end, we analyse longitudinal comparative data of over 135,000 individuals across more than 26 years and 26 countries combining different survey programmes and manifesto data. We use latent class analysis to show that over half of respondents hold exclusionary conceptions of nationhood. Moreover, this type of national identity predicts voting far right. Using multi-level modelling and within-country estimators, we further demonstrate that this relationship is significantly stronger when a country’s political elites across all parties become more exclusionary. Taking the activation hypothesis to the test in a European context, we conclude that the effect of national identity is conditional on its prior activation.


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