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Pytlas, Bartek (2017): Implemental Signal or Efficacious Preference? Representational Percepts and Motivational Motors behind Protest and Sincere Vote for Populist Radical Right Parties. 11th ECPR General Conference. Panel Parties and Elections, Oslo, 6. - 9. September 2017.

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The broadening character of populist electoral appeal in contemporary European societies re-activated the scholarly focus on the interaction between political dissatisfaction and programmatic positions as motivations of a vote for challengers to established politics. Yet, despite advanced scholarship and ongoing empirical relevance, the related question on the protest or sincere character behind these specific motors of populist radical right (PRR) vote has still not been unilaterally answered. Exploring these interactions is crucial in order for a deeper explanation of the reasons and mechanisms by which populist challengers from the radical right are able to establish themselves within mainstream party systems and pose an increasingly profound challenge to contemporary liberal democracies.

Against this backdrop, this paper aims to disentangle the effects of dissatisfaction and programmatic positions behind both protest and sincere character of PRR vote. In contrast to the majority of previous research, it is argued that protest and sincere vote cannot be seen as conceptual synonyms of a choice motivated by respectively either dissatisfaction or ideological positioning. Not only can a vote “with the boot” be programmatic, but a vote “with the heart” can be also driven by highly efficacious discontent. The paper demonstrates that the strategic or genuine character behind mutually re-enforcing motivations of PRR vote relates to the cognitive perception of the representational role of the chosen option in the mind of the voter: either as an implemental, inefficacious signal to all parties to attend to a particular subjective grievance, or as a sincere, efficacious preference of the chosen actor, subjectively perceived as the only viable vehicle for a desired political change.

These assumptions are evaluated by a comparative quantitative analysis of crucial most similar cases of PRR electoral breakthrough by the Alternative for Germany. Subsequent qualitative analysis suggests that the predominant protest or sincere vote character fuelled by particular motivations is congruent with the specific anti-establishment framing of PRR issue supply. The insights offer a deeper understanding of the patterns and mechanisms behind broadening voter mobilization and active representational agency by PRR parties.

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