Saturday, September 30, 2017

Today's Useful Data: As a Matter of Fact, Economics Does Have a Lot To Do with the Rise of Populism

It has become fashionable in certain quarters to deny any connection between the effects of the economic crisis on voters' communities and the rise of populist political parties. Political scientists Chase Foster and Jeff Frieden are out with a paper, summarized in The Monkey Cage blog, that puts paid to this ridiculous notion.  Foster and Frieden explain in their blog piece:
Could the rise in populism and loss of faith in institutions be the result of increasingly nationalist and extremist views?
In short, the answer is no. Neither changing views of national identity and nationalism, nor a rise in political extremism among the population, can explain the acute decline in civic confidence. In fact….there has been no significant change in ideological or nationalistic sentiment over the last decade according to some measures, despite the collapse in citizen confidence in national and regional political institutions.
During the past decade, Europeans have voted for populist parties in record numbers. But that’s not because of an underlying increase in extremist or nationalist sentiment, which….has remained stable for roughly 15 years, and has even gone down by some measures. What’s changed has been citizens’ willingness to vote for more extreme and more nationalistic parties.
[T]he proportion of Europeans identifying exclusively in national terms has gone down in many countries since 2010, while the share of the population with ideologically extreme views has been roughly stable.
So who’s voting for populist parties? Citizens who say they have lost faith in their political institutions and leaders.
Our analysis shows that this loss of faith comes from the dismal economic conditions of the past 10 years. The more dismal the conditions, whether at the national or individual level, the greater the loss of faith.
I can't believe we actually have to argue about this. But the urge to write off vast swathes of the electorate as culturally hopeless is apparently irresistible to some.

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