The Success of the Populist Message Explained

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: Booth 45
Oral Presentation
Matthijs ROODUIJN , Political Science, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Populism has become a regular feature of many liberal democracies. As a result, various studies have focused on the upsurge of parties that employ a populist discourse. However, comparative studies of populism mainly focus on one specific form of the phenomenon: right-wing populism. Other forms of populism, such as left-wing populism or liberal populism, have received far less attention in comparative research. This paper conceives of populism as a set of ideas that can be combined with every political ideology. Moreover, it is assumed that political parties can employ the populist set of ideas to a larger or lesser extent. As such, populism becomes a matter of degree: parties –on both the left and the right – can be more or less populist. This raises the question as to how the success of the populist message can be explained. Why and under which circumstances do citizens vote for parties that employ a populist discourse? In order to answer that question, I focus on both micro-level explanations (socio-demographic characteristics and political attitudes on the individual level), and macro-level variables (corruption, social inequality, party system polarization and the electoral system). The paper combines the results of a computer-based content analysis of election manifestos with the European Social Survey (2002-2010). By means of multi-level analyses of parties and voters in 15 Western European countries, it is assessed how the success of parties that employ a populist discourse can be explained.