Support for right-wing populism in Europe has steadily gained attention from media and policymakers over the past decade. Most of this attention, however, has been focused on the core supporters of right-wing populist parties (RPPs) – the members and the street activists – at the expense of the topic of this publication, the ‘reluctant radicals’. These are our main protagonists: the soft, uncommitted supporters of RPPs. They are crucial for two straightforward reasons: the reluctant radicals are the bulk of RPP support as well as those who can most easily be brought back to the mainstream, thereby depriving RPPs of their main electoral base.
This publication is the first of a series produced within Counterpoint’s project ‘Recapturing Europe’s Reluctant Radicals’. Our aim here is to draw an accurate portrait of these voters by exploring the characteristics of the reluctant radicals in ten European countries, with a particular focus on France, Finland and the Netherlands. We aim to critically test some common assumptions – in particular, that right-wing populism is the preserve of disadvantaged young men – as well as outline the contours of the political and cultural context in which the data needs to be interpreted.
The result is a better understanding of the diversity of the support for these parties as well as a more accurate reading of the context in which they arise – the histories, traumas, memories, resentments and fears that drive the choices of the reluctant radicals.