I am an early career researcher and I research comparative party politics and political behaviour (right-wing party competition and populism) in contemporary European politics, primarily through the use of public opinion surveys, expert surveys and qualitative case studies.
My research has appeared in top journals such as JCMS: The Journal of Common Market Studies and Electoral Studies. I am currently writing a forthcoming book, provisionally titled: “The Populist Radical Right in Italy: Volatility & Fragmentation” (ibidem/Columbia University Press) with my co-authors Dr. Valerio Alfonso Bruno (CARR) and Alessio Scopelliti (Bristol).
My research has also been published in LSE EUROPP, openDemocracy, Social Europe, Democratic Audit, E-International Relations and in edited book volumes such as Routledge (Contemporary China Series), Routledge Handbook of Non-Violent Extremism (Forthcoming), The Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right Annual Yearbooks (ibidem/Columbia University Press).
I also have a book monograph currently under review (Intention to Publish from MUP) at Manchester University Press (Global Studies of the Far Right Book Series) with my co-author, Professor Matthew Loveless (Bologna).
I am contributing with my co-author Dr. Valerio Alfonso Bruno to the forthcoming Handbook for Routledge, titled: “The Routledge Handbook of Far-Right Extremism in Europe” which examines radical right populism in Italy (scheduled for publication in early 2022).
I serve as a reviewer for a number of top political science journals, such as The American Journal of Political Science, The Journal of Politics (JOP), JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, Electoral Studies, Government & Opposition, Political Behavior and the Journal of Contemporary European Research (JCER).
I have also published a teaching related publication on Teaching Research Methods to Undergraduate students for the British International Studies Association (BISA).
My recent research and expertise on Populist Radical Right Parties also recently contributed towards an Expert Survey for the Spanish Newspaper El Pais, which examines ideological positions on key socio-economic and socio-cultural issues in thirteen countries across Europe. The results of the survey, the methodology and the participants were published alongside with an article explaining the main conclusions and a digital tool to compare the ideological profile of these parties.
In a separate related project, I am also developing (Head of the Populism Research Unit) an Annual CARR Expert Survey on Populism that would examine the ideological positions on key (a) socio-economic and (b) socio-cultural issues across the EU27 of ‘varying’ types of populist parties in Europe. The findings of this research project would have important implications for liberal democracy in Europe, the future of the EU project and for the overall state of party politics in Europe.
I have had extensive Methods Training at the University of Oxford, the Department of Government at the University of Essex, alongside the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis.
A selection of publications (since 2018) and working papers can be found below:
Downes, J.F. Loveless, M. & A. Lam (2021).“The Looming Refugee Crisis in the EU: Right-Wing Party Competition and Strategic Positioning.” Journal of Common Market Studies. Article featured in: JCMS Blog (Ideas on Europe), LSE EUROPP & CARR.
Despite a rise in the number of competitive far right parties leading up to the European refugee crisis, some centre right parties achieved or maintained electoral success. We argue that some centre right parties recognise the electoral opportunity for radical right parties to exploit the refugee crisis for electoral gains and strategically adopt hard-line positions on immigration to maintain and even increase their electoral success.
We test our theory of strategic positioning using data on party competition in national parliamentary elections across 28 EU member states at the start of the refugee crisis. Strategic positioning appears to be a particularly successful choice for centre right parties. The quantitative analysis is supported by case studies in Western Europe of Austria and The Netherlands. Whilst strategic positioning may produce short-term electoral success, it also mainstreams radical immigration positions in contemporary European politics, with negative implications for liberal democracy in Europe.
Downes, J.F. & M. Loveless (2018). “Centre Right and Radical Right Party Competition in Europe: Strategic Emphasis on Immigration, Incumbency and Economic Crisis.” Electoral Studies (54): pp. 148-158.
We examine centre right and radical right party competition. We argue that centre right parties – particularly non-incumbents – recognise economic crises as electoral opportunities for radical right parties and respond with the strategic emphasis of immigration in mass appeals. To test this, we merge party performance data with expert surveys across 24 European Union countries to examine parties’ electoral performances during the 2008 economic crisis.
We find that non-incumbent centre right parties benefited from emphasising immigration, performing better than radical right parties. Second, incumbent centre right parties that did not emphasise immigration lost out electorally, providing an opportunity for far-right parties to benefit from immigration in this economic context. Qualitative case studies further suggest that while these effects appear to be more pronounced in Western Europe, the results are consistent across the East and West. The findings suggest a reconsideration of immigration as an exclusive issue for far-right electoral success.
F. Wiebrecht & J.F. Downes (2021). “East v. West: Regional Heterogeneity in the Far-Right Alternative für Deutschland Party.”
Populist radical right parties (PRR) have experienced numerous electoral success across Europe in the recent years. However, what has found less attention generally is their heterogeneous ideological composition. We highlight the case of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and show that inner-party conflicts can arise on the traditional left-right dimension as well as regarding authoritarian-libertarian values.
Drawing on voters’ and candidates’ data from the 2017 German Longitudinal Election Survey alongside the 2018 ALLBUS German Social Survey, we find that both voters and AfD candidates in Germany exhibit significant differences across East and West Germany. Both tend to be (a) more authoritarian as well as (b) left-wing economically. Thus, the AfD resembles a ‘typical’ PRR party in West Germany but is much ideologically closer to PRR parties of Central and Eastern Europe in East Germany. The findings have important implications for the AfD itself but also for the broader literature on PRR parties in Central-Eastern Europe.
2022. “The Populist Radical Right in Italy (2018-2020)”. ibidem/Columbia University Press. (with V.A. Bruno & A. Scopelliti).
2022. “Right-Wing Party Competition in Europe: The Electoral Strategies of the Far- Right during Crises.” (Under Review/Intention to Publish: Manchester University Press. Global Studies of the Far-Right Series). (with Matthew Loveless).
2017. “A New Electoral Winning Formula?’ Beyond the Populist Radical Right: Center Right Party Electoral Success, ‘Strategic Emphasis’ and Incumbency Effects on Immigration in the 21st Century.” University of Kent.
2021. Downes, J.F., Wiebrecht, F. & E. Chan. (Forthcoming). “Disunity within the Ranks? Party Expulsions in the European Radical Right: 2000–2020.” In: CARR Annual Yearbook (2020/2021). Ed. Eviane Leidig. ibidem/Columbia University Press.
2021. Bruno, V.A. & J.F. Downes (Forthcoming). “The Right’s War On Science & Experts Escalates Amid COVID-19.” In: CARR Annual Yearbook (2020/2021). Ed. Eviane Leidig. ibidem/Columbia University Press.
2021. Downes, J.F. Chan, E. & Bruno, V.A. “The Populist Radical Left as a Transnational Social Movement in 21st Century European Politics: The Case of DiEM25.” Routledge Handbook of Non-Violent Extremism. (Forthcoming).
2020. Downes, J.F. Bruno, V.A. “COVID-19 & The (Temporary) Fall of the Populist Radical Right in European Politics?” In: Radical Right-Wing Responses to COVID-19 (Hannover: Ibidem/Columbia University Press, 2020).
2020. ‘From “Challengers” to “Incumbents’: The Populist Radical Right in Government.’ In: Mainstreaming the Global Radical Right. The Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right. ibidem/Columbia University Press (with Felix Wiebrecht & Edward Chan).
2019. “The Decline of the Left and the Populist Radical Right Surge in the Refugee Crisis.” In: Tracking the Rise of the Radical Right Globally. The Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, ibidem and Columbia University Press.
2018. “Mainland Chinese Immigration in Hong Kong: Analyzing anti- immigrant sentiment.” In: Lam, Wai-man and Luke Cooper. ‘Citizenship, Identity, and Social Movements in the New Hong Kong’ Routledge, Contemporary China Series
Articles: (Op-eds & Working Papers)
2021. “Geopolitical Significance and American Populist Nationalism: Explaining America’s stringent policy measures towards China’s technological advances.” (with Mohid Iftikhar). (Working Paper/Project).
2020. Disunity within the Ranks: Party Expulsions in the European Populist Radical Right (2000-2020) (with Felix Wiebrecht) (Working Paper/Project).
2020. Why are the Radical Right better at “capitalizing” on ‘Populism’ than the Radical Left? (Under Review: CARR Research Insight Series). (with Valerio A. Bruno).
2020. “Ambiguity v. Clarity: Exploring the Electoral Decline of the Populist Italian Five Star Movement.” (with Nicola Palma). (Working Paper/Under Review at Government & Opposition).
2020. “Explaining Electoral Support for the Far-Right Swedish Democrats (2016–2017).” (With Jeremy Law). (Working Paper/Project).
2020. “COVID-19 & The (Temporary) Fall of the Populist Radical Right in European Politics?” (with Valerio Alfonso Bruno). (CARR/RANTT MEDIA).
2020. The Global Far Right in the Fourth Wave: From Pariahs to Kingmakers (CARR).
2020. “Syncretic Populism in Contemporary 21st Century European Politics.” (with Lin Xu). (Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right).
2020. “The Populist Paradox and the Double-Edged Sword of Mobilisation.” Social Europe.
2020. “The case of Fratelli d’Italia: How Radical Right Populists in Italy & beyond are building global networks.” (with Valerio Alfonso Bruno). Democratic Audit.
2019. From ‘Challengers’ to ‘Incumbents’: The Populist Radical Right in Government CARR/LSE EUROPP.
2019. Populist Radical Right Parties v. Extreme Right-Wing Parties: A Case Study of Western & Eastern Germany (with Felix Wiebrecht). (RANTT Media/CARR)
2019. East v. West? The Internal Battle within the Far Right in Germany (with Felix Wiebrecht). (Social Europe).
2019. The Populist Radical Right in 21st Century European Politics (With Felix Wiebrecht). (Fair Observer/CARR).
2019. Your Guide To The 2019 European Parliament Elections. (with Felix Wiebrecht). (RANTT MEDIA & CARR).
2019. Five key trends from the 2019 European Parliament elections (with Felix Wiebrecht). (LSE EUROPP).
2019. Why are the Radical Right better at “capitalizing” on ‘Populism’ than the Radical Left? (with Valerio A. Bruno & Joshua Townsley). (openDemocracy & CARR).
2019. Explaining the Electoral Decline of the Radical Right in Belgium (2004-2018). (CARR/Fair Observer).
2019. An Analysis of the China and North Korean Relationship. (with Ronald Leung). The Geopolitics.
2019. The electoral system and support for populist parties in Europe. LSE EUROPP.
2018. The electoral system and support for populist parties in Europe. openDemocracy.
2018. Opening up Pandora’s box? How Centre Right Parties can outperform the radical right on immigration (with Matthew Loveless & Andrew Lam), Democratic Audit, LSE & LSE EUROPP.
2018. Opening up Pandora’s Box? How Centre Right Parties can outperform the Far Right (with Matthew Loveless). CARR.
2018. The Italian Populist Government is voluntarily heading towards the next political crisis (and it may have the upper hand) (with Valerio A. Bruno). (Democratic Audit, LSE).
2018. Why are the Radical Right better at “capitalizing” on ‘Populism’ than the Radical Left? (with Valerio A. Bruno). Public Seminar, New York.
2018. Why has the populist radical right outperformed the populist radical left in Europe? (with Valerio A. Bruno) LSE EUROPP; LSE BRITISH POLITICS & POLICY & Social Europe.
2018. Understanding the Electoral Rise of Radical Left Parties in Europe. Democratic Audit, LSE.
2018. Explaining the Electoral Debacle of Social Democratic Parties in Europe. LSE EUROPP and Social Europe.
Social democratic parties have experienced a sharp drop in support in several countries across Europe, underlined by the defeat of the German Social Democrats in last year’s German federal elections and the collapse of the Socialist Party in the French presidential and legislative elections. James F. Downes and Edward Chan present data on the role that the financial crisis and the migration crisis have had in furthering the erosion of support for social democratic parties in Europe.
(1) $33,000 HKD (Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies Research Grant), International Affairs Research Centre, CUHK.
(2) $6,000 HKD (Project Grant, GPAD Biannual Newsletter), CUHK.
(3) $50,000 HKD (CUHK Direct Research Grant) Pending, CUHK.
2019. The Electoral Fortunes of the Radical Right: A Comparative Analysis. Working Paper/in progress.
2019. Identity & Localism in Contemporary Hong Kong Politics. Working Paper/in progress.
2016. (with Matthew Loveless) “The 2008-2013 Economic Crisis in Europe: Extreme Right-Wing and Center Right Party Competition on the Salience of Immigration.” European Union Academic Programme Hong Kong (Working Paper Series).
2016. “Playing the Immigration Card? Extreme Right-Wing Party Strategy during the 2008-2013 Economic Crisis in Europe.” European Union Academic Programme Hong Kong (Working Paper Series)
Recent Conference Presentations (Selected):
Regional Factionalism as an Enabling Structure: The Case of the AfD. (with Felix Wiebrecht). Paper to be presented at the ECPR (European Consortium for Political Research) General Conference, Innsbruck (Austria). (26th August, 2020).
Centre Right Party Electoral Success on Immigration during the 2015-2018 European Refugee Crisis. (with Matthew Loveless & Andrew Lam). Paper presented at the Italian Political Science Association Conference (SISP). 12-14 September, 2019. Università del Salento, Lecce (Italy)/ Paper also Presented in early May 2019. Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right Conference (UK).
Strategic Positioning: Right-Wing Party Competition over Immigration during the 2015-2018 European Refugee Crisis (with Matthew Loveless & Andrew Lam). Paper to be presented at MPSA, Chicago (April, 2019).
Populism and Support for Right-Wing Parties. MPSA, Chicago (April, 2019). (Chair).
Strategic Positioning: Right-Wing Party Competition over Immigration during the 2015-2018 European Refugee Crisis (with Matthew Loveless & Andrew Lam). Paper to be presented at the Hong Kong Political Science Association (HKPSA): 3rd November 2018. (Chair).
Why Do Voters Lose Trust in Governments? Explaining the Decline of Political Trust in Australian Politics from 2007-2016. (with Liang Jiang). Paper to be presented at the 25th World Congress of Political Science, IPSA, Brisbane (Australia): 21-25 July 2018.
EU+ Series “Europe- A Year of Fateful Elections?” Europe Asia Policy Centre for Comparative Research. 16th November 2017.
Downes, James and Matthew Loveless. “Populist Radical Right and Center Right Party Competition on the Salience of Immigration: Evidence from the 2008-2013 Economic Crisis in Europe” MPSA Annual Conference. Chicago, IL (USA): 6-9 April 2017.
[EU+ Series: Europe – A Year of Fateful Elections?] European Union Academic Programme Hong Kong. Seminar #1 “Prosperous, Successful, Disgruntled: The Dutch after their Parliamentary Elections” April 2017.
“The Migration Crisis in Europe: Implications for the EU Project And Beyond” Panel at the European Union Academic Programme Hong Kong (EUAP): (Organizer) (with Dr. Simon Shen, Prof. Hans-Werner Hess and Dr. Krzysztof Sliwinski). 29th February 2016.
Loveless, Matthew, Stephen Whitefield and James Downes. “Crisis Rewards Clarity: Party Appeals, National Context and Electoral Performance in Europe: Before and After the 2008 Economic Crisis” Department of Government, University of Essex (UK): December 9th 2015.
Loveless, Matthew, Stephen Whitefield and James Downes. “Crisis Rewards Clarity: Party Appeals, National Context and Electoral Performance in Europe: Before and After the 2008 Economic Crisis” Paper presented at the Oxford and Sciences Po Paris LIEPP Workshop, “Party Position, Salience and Political Outcomes” (France): October 16th 2015.
Loveless, Matthew, Stephen Whitefield and James Downes. “Left, Right, and Center: Party Appeals and Performance in Europe at the Onset of the 2008 Economic Crisis” Paper presented at the Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, University of Ghent Political Psychology Workshop (Belgium): 10-11 June 2015.
Downes, James. “Playing the Immigration Card? The Extreme Right during times of Economic Crisis” Paper presented at the MPSA Annual Conference. Chicago, IL (USA): 16-19 April 2015.
Loveless, Matthew, Stephen Whitefield and James Downes. “Left, Right, and Center: Party Appeals and Performance in Europe at the Onset of the 2008 Economic Crisis” Paper presented at the MPSA Annual Conference. Chicago, IL (USA): 16-19 April 2015.
Journal of Politics
JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies
Government & Opposition
Journal of Contemporary European Research