Populist Attitudes and Political Engagement: Ugly, Bad, and Sometimes Good?

TitlePopulist Attitudes and Political Engagement: Ugly, Bad, and Sometimes Good?
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsArdag, Murat M., Bruno Castanho Silva, Philipp J. Thomeczek, Steffen F. Bandlow-Raffalski, and L. Littvay
Journal titleJournal of Representative Democracy

Representation failures are one of the main reasons for the emergence of populism in contemporary politics. Mainstream parties’ convergence towards the centre left parts of the electorate to feel underrepresented. Populists are successful when they engage apathetic voters. In this sense, populism is suggested to be a potential corrective to democracy as long as it engages dissatisfied and disenfranchised citizens, helping close the representation gap. We test this proposition in three experiments with samples from two different countries, to test whether the activation of populist attitudes has impacts on normatively positive and negative political participation. The experimental manipulations show that triggering populism neither makes individuals more likely to participate nor to donate to a political campaign. We also find that activation of populist attitudes makes people more likely to accept political apathy and justify not-voting. Our findings contribute to the ‘threat or corrective democracy’ debate, which suggests populism’s involvement in more political participation. Ultimately, and unfortunately, it does not seem like populism is an effective answer to ever falling levels of political participation or representational gaps in Western democracies.

Publisher linkhttps://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00344893.2019.1661870
Department of Political Science
Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations
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