hero working papers

Demand and Supply of Populism

Number: 610
Year: 2017
Author(s): L. Guiso H. Herrera M. Morelli T. Sonno
We define as populist a party that champions short-term protection policies while hiding their long-term costs by using anti-elite rhetoric to manipulate beliefs. We provide a framework that rationalizes this definition and generates sharp implications for people support to populist platforms (the demand side), for the timing of appear ance of populist parties and their chosen orientation (the supply side) as well as for non-populist parties response to populist success (an equilibrium market reaction). Using individual data on voting in European countries we document that key fea tures of the demand for populism as well as the supply heavily depend on turnout incentives, previously neglected in the populism literature. Once turnout effects are properly taken into account, economic insecurity drives consensus to populist policies directly as well as through indirect negative effects on trust and attitudes towards migrants. On the supply side, populist parties are more likely to emerge and prosper when countries deal with systemic economic insecurity crisis that both left-oriented incumbent parties (relying on government-based policies) and right-oriented (relying on markets) find hard to address, disappointing voters who lose faith in them and abstain. Relative entry space determines the orientation choice of populist parties, i.e., whether they enter on left or right of the political spectrum. The typical non-populist party policy response is to reduce the distance of their platform from that of new populist entrants, thereby magnifying the aggregate supply of populist policies.

Keywords: voter participation, short term protection, anti-elite rhetoric, populist entry