I am an early career researcher and I research comparative party politics and political behaviour in contemporary European politics, primarily through the use of public opinion surveys, expert surveys and case studies. My secondary area of expertise investigates the role of identity politics in East Asia alongside International relations in the Asian Pacific region.
My research has appeared in journals such as Electoral Studies, LSE EUROPP, openDemocracy and in edited book volumes such as Routledge, Contemporary China Series and the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (ibidem Verlag & Columbia University Press, forthcoming), with a book manuscript (proposal stage) with Routledge (Democracy & Extremism Series) in progress (co-author Matthew Loveless).
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 working papers and publications (since 2017) can be found below:
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.
Data: Change in Party Performance Dataset (Forthcoming Stata Dataset in 2019)
2019. Strategic Positioning: Explaining Centre Right Party Electoral Success on Immigration during the 2015-2018 European Refugee Crisis. (with Matthew Loveless & Andrew Lam) (Under Review in Party Politics).
Article featured in: LSE EUROPP & CARR.
Downes and Loveless (2018) offered a theory – strategic emphasis– to explain the electoral success of centre right parties over populist radical right parties during times of economic crisis. This paper examines right-wing party competition in the context of the European refugee crisis. We argue that centre right parties recognise the electoral opportunity that the refugee crisis provides for radical right parties and respond by adopting hard-line positions on immigration to maintain and even increase their electoral success.
Using data across 28 EU member states in the context of the 2015-2018 refugee crisis, we find substantial evidence for centre right parties’ strategic positioningon the issue of immigration. Centre right incumbents, in particular, benefit from this strategic positioningto stay in government. Qualitative case studies further support these findings by demonstrating that centre right parties that did not adopt anti-immigrant positions tended to lose out electorally to radical right parties. Whilst these findings point to centre right electoral success, they may also prove to be a double-edged sword, with a Pandora’s boxbeing opened up on the immigration issue.
2019. Why are the Radical Right better at “capitalizing” on ‘Populism’ than the Radical Left? (with Valerio A. Bruno & Joshua Townsley). (Forthcoming in openDemocracy).
2019. (Forthcoming). “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 Verlag 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
2017. “A New Form of Politics: Brexit, The Campaign War and the Importance of the Immigration Issue.” True Blue: A Parliament Street Book (with Christopher Hanley) (Ed: Elizabeth Anderson, David Bean). Parliament Street.
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.
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.
Research Assistants: Andrew Lam (CUHK); Edward Chan (HKU); Venisa Wai (HKU)
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):
Why Do Voters Lose Trust in Governments? Explaining the Decline of Political Trust in Australian Politics from 2007-2016. (with Liang Jiang). Paper submitted for APSA (2019).
May 2019. Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right Conference.
2019. 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).
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.
Government & Opposition
Journal of Contemporary European Research