ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details
Back to Paper Details

Someone like you? How “humanizing” politicians helps to reduce populist attitudes

Parliaments
Political Parties
Populism
Survey Experiments
Survey Research
Empirical
Stefanie Bailer
University of Basel
Stefanie Bailer
University of Basel
Nathalie Giger
University of Geneva
Elisa Volpi
University of Geneva

Abstract

Mounting evidence suggests that sizable shares of voters in many Western democracies hold populist attitudes but we know surprisingly little of how these attitudes are formed and changed. In this paper, we examine whether populist attitudes, in particular anti-elitist attitudes, are changeable by portraying politicians in a positive light. In other words, can focusing on presenting politicians in a positive light and as normal human beings change how populist people are? We do so with the help of a pre-registered survey experiment fielded in 2020 in Germany and Switzerland where respondents are allocated to video interventions focusing on presenting politicians in a positive light and as normal human beings. In detail, in order to highlight the "human" nature of politicians and thus in an effort to make them more approachable and thus break the dichotomous view of elite vs people, we designed interventions focusing on presenting the politician as a normal human being that sometimes is either forced externally to change opinion or has internal reasons to change her opinion. A third treatment directly goes against the "corrupt and dishonest" elite idea by highlighting honesty. Our findings show that indeed populist attitudes are malleable and thus dependent on elite behavior themselves. They shed light on an important dimension of populism and highlight the dynamic nature of populist attitudes.