“Populism poses a real threat to the mainstream...”

The last 3-5 years has seen a growth in populist movements across Europe. In contrast to previous years, these movements are characterised by a) greater co-ordination across national borders; b) a focus on values (sometimes traditionally left wing values) and xenophobia rather than race; and c) emphasis on local activism and street demonstrations in addition to traditional electoral politics. This is of concern to policymakers at both a European, national and local level. This has become increasingly the case following the terrorist attacks in Oslo. 

Gone are the race-based views and anti-semitism that previously characterised the far right. In its place is an emphasis on culture and values in the face of increasing immigration and the perceived cultural threat from the growth of Islam in Europe. This narrative of a new culture war is compelling and has led to shifting re-alignments, with many on the left holding the banner against immigration and Islam. The growing political power of these parties has exerted a gravitational pull on the centre ground, with countries like France banning the Burqa, and top politicians such as David Cameron and Angela Merkel declaring the end of multiculturalism. 

Alongside the electoral success of populist political parties, there has been a rise of street-based populist groups, some of which have extremist elements. These groups, like the English Defence League (EDL), style themselves as pseudo-paramilitary organizations, and utilise the Internet and social network sites to organise demonstrations and recruit new members.

But the exact nature, seriousness and extent of these trends are underexplored. Any response must be carefully considered, involve many partners, and be informed by rigorous research. Demos is undertaking a research project to explore and document the contours of this right wing populism in Europe. This combines country-based primary research and a large scale survey of right wing populist activist  in the following countries: the UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Italy and Hungary. 

This project will culminate in a preliminary report setting out the survey results and what it means for European policy makers. The report will be launched at a public conference in Brussels in early autumn.

The research will explore  this growth in far-right activity:

  • To what extent are groups similar to the EDL organising in other European countries?
  • What are their main concerns, and how do they mobilise?
  • Are the street-based groups connected with formal political parties, more extreme Nazi groups, or other European groups?

To answer these questions, Demos is undertaking one of the most comprehensive research projects into the populism in Europe to date. This includes a large survey of activists and sympathisers, and in-country fieldwork with populist activists across several European countries, including the UK, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Hungary.  

The research will be part of a larger programme of research into the rise of xenophobia in Europe. 

Our results will be published in autumn 2011.

For more information about this work, contact Jonathan Birdwell or Jamie Bartlett.

To request an interview or comment from Jamie or Jonathan contact Beatrice Karol Burks.


The New Face of Digital Populism
Jamie Bartlett, Jonathan Birdwell, Mark Littler
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This report analyses the responses of 10,000 online supporters of European populist political parties and movements, looking at the reasons why people are motivated to join.

Populism in Europe: Hungary
Jamie Bartlett, Jonathan Birdwell, Jack Benfield
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The first in a series of reports looking at populist movements in Europe, this study examines the views and motivations of online supporters of the Jobbik movement.

Populism in Europe: Denmark
Jamie Bartlett, Jonathan Birdwell, Mona Bani, Jack Benfield
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This report is the third in our series of reports into the rise of populist parties and movements in Western Europe, this time looking at the Danish People's Party.

Populism in Europe: Netherlands
Jamie Bartlett, Jonathan Birdwell, Sarah de Lange
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This report is the fourth in the Populism in Europe series, this time looking at the Netherlands, Geert Wilders and the Partij voor de Vrijheid.

Populism in Europe: CasaPound
Jonathan Birdwell, Jamie Bartlett
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This pamphlet is the sixth in our series of reports on European populism, this time looking at CasaPound, an Italian neo-fascist political and cultural movement.

New political actors in Europe: New opposition movements in Hungary
Jamie Bartlett, Péter Krekó, Bulcsu Hunyadi
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This report analyses the views of over 4,000 Facebook fans of eight new opposition movements in Hungary.

Oct 11

Yesterday's extremist

We should give Tommy Robinson a chance to repair the damage caused by the EDL, says Jamie Bartlett.

Jun 15

Greeks on the defence in (yet) another Euro battle

Kyriakos Klosidis says the upcoming Greek election is more than likely to result in fragile marriages of convenience, despite predictions for the contrary.

Jun 14

Government is still a way behind Mark Zuckerberg

Jamie Bartlett says that the new communications security Bill still leaves too many questions unanswered.

May 30

The sun is setting on Golden Dawn

Kyriakos Klosidis says support for the Greek neo-Nazi party will soon dwindle.

May 9

In defence of ‘snooping’

Sebastien Feve teases out the complexities involved in the security services' use of social media intelligence.

Apr 2

Why Britain beats the far-right

After his appearance on BBC One's The Big Questions, Jamie Bartlett shares his thoughts about Britain's far-right.

Mar 20

The re-emergence of anti-Semitic conspiracies

Jamie Bartlett on what conspiracy theories can tell us about the Toulouse killer.

Feb 7

Tackling radicalisation is an ugly business

Jamie Bartlett argues that prevention work will do little to avert far-right terrorism.

Jan 30

Populism in Europe: the Jobbik movement

Jonathan Birdwell introduces the first in a series of case studies examining the rise of populism in Europe - this time looking at Jobbik in Hungary.

Nov 7

The next European crisis

Jack Benfield describes the key findings of the recent report on digital populism in Europe.

Oct 30

The EDL online

Jamie Bartlett outlines his latest report which investigates the EDL's online support base.

Jul 25

Far-right reactions to the Norway attacks

Jonathan Birdwell examines the way far-right groups have responded to the tragedy in Norway.

Jul 23

The rise of the far-right

Jonathan Birdwell comments on the rise of the far-right in Scandinavia.

Oct 12

The worrying rise of the far right

Jamie Bartlett discusses the rise of the far right and anti-immigration sentiment across the EU with El Pais.

Apr 2

Is Britain too complacent about the far right?

Jamie Bartlett appeared on the Big Questions to discuss Britain's far right.

Mar 26

English Defence League tries to rally European far right

The Guardian cites last year's report into the rise of web-based extremism across Europe.

Mar 26
Nov 10
Nov 9
Nov 8
Nov 7
Nov 7
Nov 7
Aug 3

Utoya Attack was Norway Killers backup plan

Jonathan Birdwell comments in the Independent, on far-right activities.

Aug 3

The Rise of the Far-right

Jamie Bartlett talks to Australian radio show ABC Local, on the resurgence of the far-right in Europe. 

Jul 28

Will the Norway Massacre Deflate Europe's Right Wing?

Jamie Bartlett comments in the New York Times on the European far-right's reaction to the Norway attacks.

Jul 27

Rise of the Radical Right

Jonathan Birdwell talks to Los Angeles radio station KPFK about his research on the Demos project, The far-right in Europe.

Jul 26

Jonathan Birdwell on BBC Radio Cumbria

Ian Timms at BBC Radio Cumbria interviews Jonathan Birdwell about far-right activity in Europe. From 1 hour 35 minutes into the podcast.

Jul 26

How Organized Are Europe's Political and Violent Extremists?

Jonathan Birdwell speaks to PBS Newhour about the growth and mobilisation of far-right groups in Europe.

Jul 26

The vanguard of the new radical right

The Toronto Star talks to Jamie Bartlett about the 'new radical right.'

Jul 26

Cultural conservatism of Europe's far-right

Jonathan Birdwell talks to American radio station Here & Now about the resurgence of the far-right in Europe.

Jul 25

Rise of the radical right

Jamie Bartlett and Jonathan Birdwell talk about the far-right resurgence in Europe in Foreign Policy magazine.