The Populist Radical Right vs. the European Union? On Euroscepticism, Framing, and the Discourse of the Front National (2011-2017).
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Decreases in popular support for deeper European integration can be traced back to reasons of framing in popular discourse. The presence of populist radical right parties may cause decreases in support for deeper European integration. Firstly, because they have an influence on other political actors and react to the framing surrounding the ideological convergence of mainstream parties and their irresponsiveness vis-à-vis the European Union. Secondly, because populist radical right actors have a considerable influence on people’s frame of thought through their discourse. In the first chapter, an overview of the European context in which populist parties were able to establish themselves is be presented and the reluctance of nation-states to transfer more sovereignty towards the European Union is analysed against a recent vision surrounding the framing of Germany’s role in the EU. In the second chapter, populism and its causes are under scrutiny. A variety of theoretical approaches is presented and criticised, and a proper working definition is deducted. For the phenomenon under study, the ideational approach on populism, most extensively used in the field, proves interesting. Paramount to this chapter is the uncovering of the framing at work at the ‘meso-level’, crucial in understanding voter mobilisation, although mostly neglected in political analysis. In the light of the populist politicisation of issues (‘issue ownership’) forcing other political actors to react and thus setting the political agenda, the research focuses on how the populist radical right actively constructs fear, essential in understanding why and how these parties are on the rise. The research subsequently identifies and discusses various framing mechanisms that are put against an empirical case in chapter three: the Front National in France. In particular, the discourse of Marine Le Pen with regard to the European Union is analysed during the period 2011–2017 – clustered around two presidential election cycles and coinciding with the Eurocrisis and European migration crisis. A total of 39 speeches are analysed and the interpretation frame Le Pen supplies to her audience is made visual. Although the French experience is unique to the country, framing mechanisms identified and discussed in this study play out broader and in different cases. Ultimately, this research substantiates that the populist radical right versus the European Union is in fact a false dichotomy.