Populist parties increasingly take a welfare chauvinistic position. They criticize mainstream parties for cutting and slashing welfare at the expense of the ‘native’ population and to the benefit of the ‘undeserving’ immigrant. Given the electoral success of populist parties, we investigate whether and when mainstream parties ignore, attack or accommodate welfare chauvinism. Using key theories of party behaviour, we test whether mainstream parties (1) respond immediately to populist parties, (2) respond with a time lag, or (3) respond only when they lose elections or are in opposition. Our quantitative analyses of party manifestos, speeches and policies of European mainstream and populist parties (1980–2012) show that mainstream parties adapt to populist parties on welfare chauvinism, but which parties adapt and when varies significantly. In our in-depth examinations of the Dutch and Danish cases, we highlight important cross-country and cross-party differences.
Published online before print September 22, 2014, doi: 10.1177/1354068814549345, in Party Politics, http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/09/22/1354068814549345.abstract