Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash

harvardAbstract: Rising support for populist parties has disrupted the politics of many Western societies. What explains this phenomenon? Two theories are examined here. Perhaps the most widely-held view of mass support for populism — the economic insecurity perspective–emphasizes the consequences of profound changes transforming the workforce and society in post-industrial economies. Alternatively, the cultural backlash thesis suggests that support can be explained as a retro reaction by once predominant sectors of the population to progressive value change. To consider these arguments, Part I develops the conceptual and theoretical framework. Part II of the study uses the 2014 Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES) to identify the ideological location of 268 political parties in 31 European countries. Part III compares the pattern of European party competition at national-level. Part IV uses the pooled European Social Survey 1-6 (2002-2014) to examine the cross-national evidence at individual level for the impact of the economic insecurity and cultural values as predictors of voting for populist parties. Part V summarizes the key findings and considers their implications. Overall, we find the most consistent evidence supporting the cultural backlash thesis.

By Ronald F. Inglehart and Pippa Norris

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