Noemi Martig, Julian Bernauer
The Halo Effect: Perceptions of Diffuse Threat and the SVP Vote Share

World Political Science, 2018: 14, issue 1, pp. 27-54
ISSN: 2363-4774 (print); 2363-4782 (online)

The voter strength of right-wing populist parties is regularly attributed either to a feeling of threat from a high proportion of local foreigners or to the lack of opportunities for contact between the majority and the minority. This contribution is theoretically based on a synthesis of these perspectives, known as the Halo effect. Accordingly, it is not so much the local size of the local population, which is perceived as foreign, but rather its relative proportion in the surrounding countryside, which leads to a diffuse feeling of threat. The electoral success of the Swiss People's Party (SVP) at the level of the Swiss municipalities serves as a basis for the empirical investigation, which is conducted alternatively with the proportions of the foreign and Muslim population. For both groups, spatial multilevel regression models provide indications of a coexistence of direct negative effects of minority populations on the share of the SVP (in the sense of the contact hypothesis) and of Halo effects, with the direct effects appearing to be somewhat more pronounced. Socio-structural factors can reduce these correlations (high unemployment neutralizes the negative effect of the proportion of foreigners) or intensify these correlations (a higher income level accentuates the Halo effect for Muslims).