Democratic Support, Populism, and the Incumbency Effect

Issue Date October 2021
Volume 32
Issue 4
Page Numbers 131–45
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Many have argued that the rise of populism presents a danger to liberal democracy. But do supporters of populist parties oppose liberal democracy? Using an original survey instrument covering 28 European democracies, we examine support for aspects of liberal democracy among populist- and nonpopulist-party supporters. Our findings show that it is not primarily populism, but rather incumbency status that correlates with a lack of support for liberal-democratic norms that can constrain majority rule. This is especially the case for radical-right party supporters who favor liberal democracy when in opposition, but oppose core liberal-democratic norms when in government.

About the Authors

Wouter van der Brug

Wouter van der Brug is professor of political science at the University of Amsterdam.

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Sebastian Popa

Sebastian Popa is senior lecturer in the School of Geography, Politics, and Sociology at the University of Newcastle.

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Sara B. Hobolt

Sara B. Hobolt holds the Sutherland Chair in European Institutions and is professor of government at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Hermann Schmitt

Hermann Schmitt is emeritus professor at the University of Manchester and a Research Fellow at the Mannheim Center for Eu-ropean Social Research, University of Mannheim.

View all work by Hermann Schmitt