Why do many populist movements manage to assemble coalitions of societal groups that cut across ideological and socio-economic divides? In a new Registered Report, published in German Political Science Quarterly, Nils Steiner, Christian Schimpf and I argue: All groups that constitute the populist coalition share a feeling of lacking societal recognition – but for very different reasons.
Nils Steiner does an excellent job to summarize the paper in this twitter thread:
A prominent but underspecified explanation for the rise of populism points to individuals’ feelings of being “left behind” by the development of society. At its core lies the claim that support for populism is driven by the feeling of lacking the societal recognition one deserves. Our contribution builds on the insight that individuals can feel they lack recognition in different ways and for different reasons. We argue that—because of this multifaceted character—the common perception of being neglected by society unites otherwise heterogeneous segments of the population in their support for populism. Relying on data from the German Longitudinal Election Study (GLES) Pre-Election Cross-Section 2021, our preregistered study investigated the multiple roots of populist attitudes in feelings of lacking societal recognition in two steps. First, our results indicate that, from rural residents to sociocultural conservatives or low-income citizens, seemingly unrelated segments of society harbor feelings of lacking recognition, but for distinct reasons. Second, as anticipated, each of the distinct feelings of lacking recognition are associated with populist attitudes. These findings underscore the relevance of seemingly unpolitical factors that are deeply ingrained in the human psyche for understanding current populist sentiment. Overall, by integrating previously disparate perspectives on the rise of populism, the study offers a novel conceptualization of “feeling left behind” and explains how populism can give rise to unusual alliances that cut across traditional cleavages.