Research by the University of Reading is helping to tackle the rise in European political extremism, by revealing the dangers hidden within the seemingly benign nationalistic rhetoric of far-right parties.

European democracy has become increasingly threatened by the rise of far-right populist parties, whose exclusionary policies have legitimised openly violent forms of extremism.

Research by Professor Daphne Halikiopoulou at the University of Reading is helping to tackle this threat, by identifying the economic and institutional factors that drive public populist sympathy and revealing the tactics and narratives used by parties to exploit it.

The research challenges conventional wisdom that the rise in support of far-right policies is the product of primarily cultural grievances, instead linking it to economic insecurity and a decline in voters’ levels of institutional trust. The research shows that the most successful far-right parties adopt a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ strategy, framing exclusionary policies that capitalise on the insecurities of voters in seemingly liberal terms.

Halikiopoulou’s considerable engagement with the media and policymakers about her research has stimulated debate and discussion about the institutional and economic dimensions of far-right party support and the use of civic nationalism to appeal to voters.

In Greece, her work has contributed to efforts to restore trust in politics and widen access to political participation, including through facilitation of a remote voting system for national elections. More widely, her research is being used to develop an online tool to classify and track the rise of populist parties across Europe, ultimately better equipping policymakers to assess and overcome the global challenges presented by the ongoing rise of the far right.

Find out more

‘Far right’ groups may be diverse – but here’s what they all have in common (blog, Sept 2018)

View the full impact case study on the REF 2021 website: Equipping society to assess the far-right challenge by promoting awareness, understanding and engagement