Europe's anti-establishment parties aren't flourishing in the age of Trump

Posted by Paul, 2017-03-02

In the wake of Donald Trump's election last November, many thought that Europe's anti-establishment, nationalist and far-right parties might flourish. For a little while it seemed possible: Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi's constitutional reforms failed a referendum and Renzi ultimately resigned.

Now that Trump has been President for a little over a month, we can compare polling for European parties identified as similar to Trump in either ideology or anti-establishment tone in the weeks after Trump's inauguration to the weeks before it. When we do, we can see that Europe's anti-establishment parties aren't flourishing in the age of Trump.

Let's look at four cases to test whether there really is a Trump-style movement sweeping across Europe: the Dutch Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders (who recently praised Trump's travel ban executive order), the Italian Five Star Movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo (who isn't so much far right as anti-establishment), French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen (who for whatever reason was spotted in the Trump Tower cafeteria in January) and Germany's Alternative for Germany (the AfD), a right-wing populist and Eurosceptic party.

We can compare opinion polling taken after Trump's inauguration on January 20 to polls taken during an equivalent amount of time (from December 9 to January 19). The numbers outside the brackets are the polling results, the number inside indicates the number of polls used.

Netherlands (Party for Freedom)

Before: 31.6 (12)

After: 28.0 (20)

Change: -3.6

Italy (Five Star Movement)

Before: 28.6 (24)

After: 28.0 (35)

Change: -0.6

France (Marine Le Pen, National Front, first round)

Before: 25.1 (4)

After: 25.8 (55)

Change: +0.4

Germany (Alternative for Germany)

Before: 12.8 (28):

After 10.9 (32)

Change: -1.9

In no case has any of these four parties increased their support differently, while in two (Alternative for Germany and the Party for Freedom) their fortunes have declined. In the Netherlands, the effect is even more recent with Wilders' Party for Freedom losing their long-held lead to draw even with the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy.

This is almost certainly more complicated than just a simple "Trump effect" (it turns out that not everything in politics has to do with the US president), but at the very least this simple analysis shows that a Trump-style anti-establishment wave hasn't been obviously spreading across western Europe since Trump's ascension to the presidency.

If I had to point to the most interesting post-Trump development in one of these countries, it would be in Germany, but not for the AfD.

In the month or so before Trump, Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU alliance was leading their nearest opponents 35 to 21 per cent. Since then? Merkel's party's lead shrunk to a much smaller 33 to 29 lead. With Merkel being a frequency target of Trump's verbal and Twitter attacks, it might seem that he might have something to do with this, but it's a hard argument to sustain because her main rivals are not Trump-like nationalist-populists, but the left-of-centre Social Democratic Party. Is it a reaction against Trump? That's probably too hard to say, but it certainly isn't evidence that Germany is welcoming Trump-style politics.