The Persuasion Effect and Contrast Effect of Radical Right Voters – the case of Germany

Ka-Ming Chan (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)

Abstract: During the 2013-2017 electoral cycle, Alternative for Germany (AfD) emerged as a radical right party in the electoral market and it broke into thirteen subnational parliaments. This research investigates whether its voters shifted their ideological self-position in the rightward direction throughout these concatenated elections. This rationalization process, in which radical right voters align their left-right position to their supported party, is the so-called persuasion effect. In addition, this research studies the contrast effect of these radical right voters, which concerns how they adjust their perceived position of other parties. In particular, it analyzes whether radical right voters perceive the conservative party, Christian Democratic Union (CDU), as more leftward leaning. By means of a panel data, I find that both persuasion effect and contrast effect exist. This research not only sheds light on why AfD could successfully break into national parliament after these successful concatenated subnational elections. Also, it expands our understanding of spatial model, as it suggests that radical right voters update their ideological positions within a rather short period of time, so as to match their party’s stance and avoid cognitive dissonance.

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