“Contingent Extremism: How Perceptions of Party Popularity Activate Far Right Support,” Laura Jakli, Harvard University

Event time: 
Friday, May 5, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Institution for Social and Policy Studies (PROS77 ), A002 See map
77 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 


Abstract: For decades, European far right parties existed at the political fringe, garnering the support of a small group of staunch extremists. In recent years, support for these parties increased substantially. I argue that far right parties broadened their base by mobilizing contingent extremists—supporters who long held extreme beliefs, but who viewed these parties as illegitimate in more hostile opinion climates. As parties’ perceived popularity increased, it activated supporters—especially in places where the actual popularity was low. To test this theory, I field survey experiments in Germany (n=1,991), France (n=1,770), and Hungary (n=1,015) to measure respondents’ willingness to identify as far right supporters when assigned to more or less ‘favorable’ information about party popularity through randomly varied polls. Respondents’ differential willingness to identify as supporters in these experimental treatments indicates contingent extremism. I find that most contingent extremists reside in voting districts where the far right is electorally weak. A second wave of experiments in these countries (n=3,668 total) leverages the temporal evolution of these parties over an election cycle to better identify the parameters of contingent extremism.

Laura Jakli is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an incoming assistant professor at Harvard Business School’s Business, Government & the International Economy unit. Previously, she was a Predoctoral Fellow at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and the Program on Democracy and the Internet. She holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Her research is primarily in comparative politics and examines how information communication technologies shape political identity and behavior. Her dissertation won APSA’s Ernst B. Haas Award for the best dissertation on European politics. She is currently working on her book project, Engineering Extremism, which is substantively focused on political extremism and destigmatization, examining the role of popularity cues in political identity formation through experimental methods. Her related research examines a broad range of threats to democratic governance, including political apathy engineering, exclusionary public goods allocation, and misinformation.

Her published work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, Governance, International Studies Quarterly, Public Administration Review, and the Virginia Journal of International Law, along with an edited volume in Democratization (Oxford University Press).

This workshop is open to the Yale community. To receive announcements and invitations to attend, please subscribe at https://csap.yale.edu/american-comparative-political-behavior-workshop.

The series is sponsored by the ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.