What really drives populist votes?

Recent insights and open questions. A paper by Thiemo Fetzer and Robert Gold for the Forum New Economy, October 2019.


The reasons for rising populism in Europe are hotly disputed. For some, the origins lie in a cultural backlash against in particular the shift to greater multiculturalism and gender equality. As evidence they point to countries such as Austria or Sweden, countries which have managed globalization very effectively, but have still experienced a surge in political populism. For others, populism has economic origins; culture has played its part, but cultural fears are often rooted in economic security and perceived loss of status.

This study finds that while there are cultural, political and historical differences in the way populism manifests itself, the evidence is that populists across Europe are winning support from those who have lost out from globalization, digitalization and the financial crisis. Populists are also profiting from economic insecurity among better off people, especially those living struggling regions. The authors argue that the current emphasis on maximizing aggregate economic benefits and compensating the losers is too narrow. Governments need to pay more attention to the anxieties induced by economic change and the loss of perspective caused by living in declining regions.

The study was presented at the Forum’s launch by Robert Gold. You can find the full study and a video of Robert Gold’s presentation below.


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