E.g., 08/23/2019
E.g., 08/23/2019

Shifting Tides: Radical-Right Populism and Immigration Policy in Europe and the United States

August 2018

Shifting Tides: Radical-Right Populism and Immigration Policy in Europe and the United States

Recent elections in Europe and the United States have seen a rise in support for candidates touting populist radical-right policies, particularly in the area of immigration and asylum. While these platforms vary from country to country, they are often imbued with a sense of exclusive nationalism, distrust of elites, and desire to tighten borders and cut immigration. The politicians who espouse these positions have seen mixed electoral results, but whether in office or in the opposition, they have played a pronounced role in reshaping policy agendas, public discourse, and the priorities of more mainstream political actors.

This Transatlantic Council on Migration report examines the (re-)emergence of radical-right populism in countries across Western Europe and in the United States. Taking a comparative approach, it highlights some of the similarities and key differences in the factors driving its support and in its impact on political systems and immigration policymaking. “It is striking,” the author notes, “that the United States—a country without a dedicated populist radical-right party—has under the Trump administration seen the implementation of immigration policies more strongly inspired by this ideology than many enacted in Europe.”

In many countries, more established political actors have attempted (with often limited success) to curb support for populist radical-right opponents, whether by banding together to exclude them from government or co-opting elements of their platforms. Other strategies centered around addressing the economic and social concerns that underpin this support, this analysis concludes, may prove more effective.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. What Drives Support for Radical-Right Populism?

A. Economic Instability

B. Immigration and the Diversity Dilemma

C. Migration, Security, and “Crisis”

D. Politics and Voter Realignment

III. Electoral Breakthroughs and Establishment

IV. Gauging Influence over Immigration Policy and Policymaking

A. Impact on the Party Itself

B. Impact on the Party System and Agenda Formation

C. Impact on Policy

V. Prospects for Future Impact

VI. Policy Recommendations

A. Potential for Participation

B. Immigration and Political Mobilization

C. A “Whole-of-Society” Approach

D. Rebuild Economic Confidence