Populist Rhetoric and Nativist Alarmism

The AfD in Comparative Perspective

in German Politics and Society
Barbara Donovan Political Science, Wesleyan College, USA

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Using the 2017 Chapel Hill Expert Survey of party positions, this study compares the AfD with other European parties outside the political mainstream across several ideological/attitudinal dimensions. The paper explores the changing character of European party systems and multiple axes of party competition. It regards populism and nativism as distinct political phenomena, but as ones that are symbiotic and coupled together provide a particular powerful narrative. The paper finds that the AfD shares a close affinity with radical right parties in Europe but also emerges as one of Europe's most populist and nativist parties. This explains the AfD's affiliation with the Identity and Freedom Group in the European Parliament; it also supports the argument it is the blend of populist anti-elitism and nativist alarmism that has made the AfD the potent force in German politics that it is today.

Contributor Notes

Barbara Donovan is Professor of Political Science, the Dupont Guerry Chair of History and Economics, and Chair of the Department of History, Politics, and Global Affairs at Wesleyan College. She holds a PhD from Georgetown University. She teaches comparative and international politics, with a focus on Germany and Europe. She is the recipient of a number of grants and fellowships, including those from the German Academic Exchange Service (daad), National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies. She is a frequent contributor on panels at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, the German Studies Association, and the International Conference of Europeanists, and is also the author of a number of articles in such journals as German Politics and Society and German Politics.

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