Policy and Populism: Analysing Support for Die Linke

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Defining ‘radical left’ political actors by their challenge to contemporary economic norms, this article draws the example of Die Linke in Germany and analyses explanations for this party’s support. Two theories are tested. First, the policy-proximity account, building off the Downsian spatial model and tested with three policy dimensions relating to economics, cultural policy, and migration policy. Second, the populism-based account, which defines this as a conflict between ‘the people’ versus ‘elites’. Using German Longitudinal Election Survey data, this article carries out a large-N analysis of support for Die Linke. It uses multiple linear regression to test how far support for this party is explained by proximity between voters and the party, or by levels of populism among voters. Results showed greater support for Die Linke from proximal voters on each dimension; however, highly populist voters were not found to be more supportive of Die Linke. The article concludes in favour of a policy-proximity explanation but suggests the party’s well-established nature may have altered voters’ policy preferences, potentially leaving a reverse causal relationship and leaving in doubt the role of policy-proximity on radical left support.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Studies Review
Early online date9 Jun 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jun 2023


  • political behaviour
  • populism
  • radical left
  • spatial theory of voting
  • survey analysis


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