Contemporary center right parties in Europe are often known for their ideological focus on 'bread and butter' issues such as the free market economy and law and order, alongside their promotion of traditional institutions and values in society. However, the strategies they use to emphasize the immigration issue are less discussed in academic literature, as are the issue's electoral implications for this party family in different economic contexts across the 21st century. The central research question of this dissertation investigates the electoral success of center right parties and how they are able to prosper electorally from emphasizing immigration in different economic contexts, often at the expense of populist radical right parties. The dissertation focuses on center right parties rather than the center left, as the center right is spatially and ideologically closer to the populist radical right on a number of issues.
This theory is then tested in three separate empirical chapters (Chapters 5, 6 and 7), which draws on the ParlGov dataset on European national parliamentary elections that has been merged with the Whitefield-Rohrschneider expert survey on party positions. The Chapel Hill Expert Survey data is also utilized. Chapter 7 comprises a case study analysis of four research cases derived from the results of the large N comparative analysis in Chapter 5.
The dissertation argues that there may be a 'new electoral winning formula' in the 21st century, whereby specific center right parties profit electorally through strategically emphasizing the immigration issue, rather than on traditional issues such as law and order alongside the free market that the center right tend to be more historically associated with. These findings have implications for contemporary party politics, in showing the potential for center right parties to perform electorally well on the immigration issue and has important implications for the state of contemporary liberal democracy across Europe.