Document Type

Honors Project

Publication Date

Spring 6-1-2016


Why do radical right parties achieve electoral success? Although radical right parties are far from a new phenomenon in modern politics, it nonetheless remains difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons behind their electoral success. Therefore, to provide greater insight into the success of radical right parties this study investigates the Sweden Democrats, a radical right party in Sweden, and their recent electoral success. According to the literature on the radical right, there are two distinct hypotheses that emerge to explain radical right parties’ electoral success. One (the “emphasis” hypothesis) argues for continued, and consistent emphasis on the signature ideological issue, while the other (the “moderation” hypothesis) suggests moderation as a preferable strategy for electoral success. This project uses a form of comment frequency analysis of eleven of the Sweden Democrats’ annual speeches to evaluate whether and when they emphasize or moderate their signature ideological issue of anti-immigration and anti-Islamism. This study suggests that the Sweden Democrats are, counterintuitively, both moderating and emphasizing their signature ideological issue, depending upon the addressed audience. In an attempt to reconcile the difference between the existing subsets of literature, I introduce the “hook” hypothesis, which challenges a core assumption made by the literature and presents a potential explanation for why the Sweden Democrats are pursuing what appears to be a unique strategy. The findings help to reconcile and add nuance to the existing literature on the rise of the radical right more generally and the Sweden Democrats in particular.

Level of Honors

magna cum laude




Ameya Balsekar