Trump and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism: Austrian Elections

In April 2016, Green Party member Alexander Van der Bellen won the Austrian presidential election with a slim majority of 50.3%. The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) immediately cast an appeal of the results on behalf of their candidate, Norbert Hofer, who lost the election by 0.6 percentage points. The rerun is scheduled for December 4, with polls pointing to a Hofer victory. Many also see the ‘Trump Effect’ as portentous of an FPÖ victory. If elected, Hofer would be the first far-right president in Europe since the Second World War.

What does the Freedom Party of Austria want?

The FPÖ, a party formed in the 1950s by former Nazis, runs on a platform of nationalism, anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and Euroscepticism. Hofer has been vocal against both TTIP and Turkey’s potential EU membership, stating his intention to hold a referendum to leave the EU if Turkey is accepted to the bloc.

Do Austrians agree with the FPÖ?

Our survey results show that compared to the EU overall, Austria is much more interested in preventing countries from joining the EU in the next 5 years (25% in Austria compared to 15% for the EU). Austrians align strongly with the FPÖ’s anti-TTIP policy; just 13% of Austrians who are aware of TTIP view it positively compared to 53% of all Europeans.

Furthermore, 48% of Austrians think the main focus of the EU should be to increase border security to restrict immigration from the outside, compared to 42% of Europeans who think the same. However, Austrians’ main grievance with the EU was not that ‘It lets in too many immigrants’ (37%), but that ‘It assigns too many rules and regulations’ (45%). This might suggest that despite the strong anti-immigration sentiment pushed by the FPÖ, Austrians may not view this as a top priority.