Tuesday Seminar – 1 June

No change in sight? Assessing the stability of populist attitudes

Christian H. Schimpf – L’Université du Québec à Montréal 
Alexander Wuttke – University of Mannheim
Harald Schoen – University of Mannheim

A rapidly growing literature addresses the role of so-called populist attitudes in contemporary democracies. Generally speaking, populist attitudes are defined as a multi-dimensional attitudinal syndrome implying (dis-)agreement with populism’s central ideas of anti-elitism, preference for popular sovereignty, and a view of society as a homogenous body. In the literature investigating the antecedents and consequences of populist attitudes, we can identify two different premises about the temporal stability of populist attitudes. Some scholars assume that levels of populist attitudes are reasonably stable for individuals. By contrast, other researchers conceive of populist attitudes as a more flexible construct. Which of the two views researchers choose to adopt has fundamentally different implications for theorizing the role that populist attitudes play in contemporary democracies. Yet, despite the diverging perspectives of the temporal stability of populist attitudes and the implications for research, few studies investigate the stability of populist attitudes over time. To this end, we draw on panel data collected over six panel waves between September 2017 and March 2021 in Germany to investigate how stable populist attitudes are. The observed period includes both the 2017 German Federal Election as well as the onset and course of the Covid-19 pandemic. Initial results suggest that populist attitudes are best characterized as a relatively stable set of attitudes that only show limited flexibility over time. We discuss not only the implications for the populism literature and the role of stability in multi-dimensional concepts more generally. 

Contact Semih Çakır if you would like to participate in the seminar.

This content has been updated on 27 May 2021 at 17 h 44 min.