Research

I am an early career researcher and I research comparative party politics and political behaviour (populism and right-wing party competition on immigration) in contemporary European politics, primarily through the use of expert surveys, public opinion surveys, Manifesto Data and case study analysis.

My research has appeared in top journals such as JCMS: The Journal of Common Market Studies and Electoral Studies. The Loop, openDemocracy, Social Europe, Democratic Audit, E-International Relations (e-IR) 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 have articles relating to Populism and Right-Wing Party competition on immigration currently under review in the journals Italian Political Science Review and the European Journal of Political Research (EJPR).

I am developing my research on European Populism through writing two books. I am currently writing a forthcoming book (2022), provisionally titled: “The Rise of the Radical Right in Italy” (ibidem Press/Columbia University Press) with my co-authors Dr. Valerio Alfonso Bruno (CARR) and Alessio Scopelliti (Bristol). I also have a book monograph currently under review (Intention to Publish from MUP, 2022) at Manchester University Press (Global Studies of the Far Right Book Series) with my co-author, Professor Matthew Loveless (University of Bologna).

I am also designing a new undergraduate textbook with SAGE Politics (2023). The proposed new textbook: “Understanding Politics” will offer a comprehensive and example packed introduction to key issues in the study of politics. It aims primarily – although not exclusively – at undergraduate political science students, and is designed to mirror the way introductory Politics modules are typically organised week-by-week as a core recommendation. It will also find a market as an important standalone reference (i.e., in both physical libraries and as an important online resource for students).

“Understanding Politics” seeks to become an essential textbook that originates from a wide range of diverse interactive courses in Comparative Politics, International Relations and Global Studies that I have taught in both the Department of Government and Public Administration at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) over the past four years (2017-2021) and in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) (2016-2017). In addition, I have also published a teaching related publication on Teaching Research Methods to Undergraduate students for the British International Studies Association (BISA).

I have served 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).

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.

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:

Journal Articles:

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.

Abstract:

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.

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Abstract:

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.

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Article featured in: LSE EUROPP, LSE BRITISH POLITICS & POLICY, & DEMOCRATIC AUDIT

Books:

2022. “The Populist Radical Right in Italy (2018-2020)”. ibidem/Columbia University Press. (**Lead Author**). (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). (**Lead Author**). (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.

Latest Working Papers (2021):

2021. “The Evolving Radical Right Party Responses to Centre Right Encroachment following Crises in Europe.” (**Lead Author**). (with Matthew Loveless).

2021. Centre Right Party Electoral Success on the Immigration issue during Economic Prosperity (1999–2007) (**Single Authored**) (Under Review).

2021. Ideological Ambiguity and Intraparty Dissent: The Electoral Decline of the Populist Italian Five Star Movement (2018–2020).” (with Nicola Palma). (**Lead Author**). (Under Review: Italian Political Science Review).

2021. Disunity within the Ranks: Party Expulsions in the European Populist Radical Right (2000-2020) (with Felix Wiebrecht & Edward Chan.

Book Chapters:

2021. Downes, J.F., Wiebrecht, F. & E. Chan. “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. “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 RightThe Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right. ibidem/Columbia University Press (with Felix Wiebrecht & Edward Chan).

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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.

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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

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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. Beyond the Populist Radical Right: Centre Right Party Electoral Success on Immigration in the 21st Century (CARR).

2019 and Beyond: The Growing Threat of the Radical Right in French Politics. (CARR/openDemocracy).

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. The Decline of the Left & The Populist Radical Right Surge in the Refugee Crisis. CARR

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. Is Italy’s populist government manufacturing the next political crisis? (with Valerio A. Bruno)Social Europe.

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. The Electoral Decline of Social Democratic Parties and the ‘Rise’ of the Radical Right in Europe in the context of the refugee crisis. Democratic Audit, LSE.

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.

Abstract:

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.

Grants:

(1) $33,000 HKD (Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies Research Grant), International Affairs Research Centre, CUHK. (2020).

(2) $10,000 HKD (Project Grant, GPAD Biannual Newsletter). CUHK, Small Project Grant. (2020-2021).

(3) Jean Monnet Centres of Excellence Project. (Erasmus+/EU Commission Grant). Co-Investigator (GIS, HKBU). (Under Review). Project: “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Political & Institutional Trust in Europe & Asia.”