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Do nationalist parties shape or follow sub‐national identities? A panel analysis on the rise of the nationalist party in the Flemish Region of Belgium, 2006–11


Nations and Nationalism

Published online on


In this article, we examine the steep and unprecedented rise of the New Flemish Alliance (N‐VA), a Flemish nationalist party in Belgium that succeeded in gaining almost thirty per cent of the vote in a couple of years. During this period, a panel survey among 3,025 late adolescents and young adults was conducted. Our analyses suggest that support for a sub‐nationalist ideology is far more successful in explaining a subsequent vote for the nationalist party than vice versa. In terms of supply and demand mechanisms, we find that N‐VA has managed to address a preexisting reservoir of Flemish nationalist voters (demand), rather than attributing to a development of a stronger Flemish identity among its followers (supply). We should therefore not overestimate the constructionist power of (sub‐)nationalist political elites for the development of (sub‐)nationalist identities.