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Falling Short—Exploring Why Our Theories and Measure So Often Fail to Account for Populist and Extremist Voters

Democracy
Elections
Extremism
Populism
Political Ideology
Public Opinion
P136
Annika Werner
Australian National University
Robert A. Huber
Universität Salzburg

Abstract

The increasing support for radical and populist parties and the growing doubt about whether established systems of party-based liberal democracy can mitigate the challenges of the 21st century are calling text-book explanations for political attitudes and behaviour into question. Neither interest-driven theories of voting nor outcome-driven theories of democratic attitudes can, for instance, explain that voters in well-established and wealthy countries elect radical right populist, extremist, and anti-democratic parties. Even where such parties are clearly responsible for momentous policy failures, torn by internal conflict, or increasing societal polarization, their voters often remained loyal ensuring that they remained important national actors. Hence, the developments of the last 20 years call for a re-evaluation of theories explaining citizens’ political behaviour and expectations from the political system, probing deeper into hitherto unexplored explanatory mechanisms as well as the meaning of readily applied, yet seldom questioned concepts. How do populist and extremist voters conceptualise democracy? Are these conceptualisations different from those of mainstream voters and from what democratic theory would lead us to expect? In what respect do existing systems fall short of populist and extremist voters’ expectations? Which alternatives do citizens actually entertain (or do they at all)? What attitudes do citizens reveal when they express anti-democratic attitudes or show behaviour ostensibly sceptical of liberal democracy? Taking a critical stance towards existing theories and measures as well as building on newly available data, the papers in this panel investigate these questions. By doing so, they take a closer look at how political science explains and normatively evaluates populist and extremist voters’ attitudes and behaviours, and whether these explanations and evaluations need some re-assessment themselves.

Title Details
Populism Vs. Liberal Democracy: The Relationship Between Populist Attitudes and Support for Liberal Values View Paper Details
Risky Decisions? Conceptualizing Electoral Behavior in Terms of Uncertainty Management View Paper Details
Decisive or Dictatorial: Strongman-Style Leadership and Democratic Attitudes of Populist and Extremist Voters View Paper Details
Do Populist Citizens Support Democracy? View Paper Details
Fearing a Loss of Control and Radical Vote Choice: Examining the Connection Between a Voter’s Diffuse Attitudinal Disposition and the Support for Radical Populism. View Paper Details