PolBeRG Seminar - Economic correlates of populist attitudes: An analysis of nine European countries
Despite the recurrent impression that populism is enhanced in times of economic hardship, not much empirical research has actually been done on the antecedents of populist attitudes among voters, and the question of the specific role of economic factors remains open. This paper examines the extent to which economic recession affects individuals’ adoption of populist attitudes in nine European countries in the wake of the Great Recession.
We distinguish three different, interrelated aspects of economic hardship that are expected to foster the development of populist attitudes at the individual level: vulnerability, deprivation and negative sociotropic perceptions. We use comparative cross-national with large variation in these variables, both across countries and across individuals within countries, coming from the Livewhat project. We find relevant and consistent effects of all these three individual aspects, with some relevant cross-national differences particularly for the effect of the indicators of vulnerability. As we expected, deprivation and, particularly, sociotropic perceptions have the strongest effects. The main explanation for populist attitudes is not the economic hardship suffered by the people, but rather the perceptions that citizens have about the economic situation.