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Do People Get More Populist Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Ekaterina Lytkina
Universität Bremen

Abstract

I address the question whether people get more populist in case of the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak of COVID-19 has threatened the very existence of the society. This can lead to a wide range of attitudinal and behaviour changes, such is the “rally round the flag” effect and societal consolidation, or, on the contrary, blaming the government and opposing the elites. Two experimental studies were performed in the UK in 2020 and 2021. The focus of the first study (N=756) was whether the situations of perceived relative deprivation or existential insecurity enhance populist attitudes, and what role emotions play in this process. It was found that in case perceptions of relative deprivation result in anger and disgust, individuals demonstrate a higher level of anti-elitism, and in case of anger and sadness – a higher level of popular sovereignty. The second study addressed the questions whether populism could be seen among coping strategies towards the stress caused by perceptions of relative deprivation in the context of the COVID outbreak, and whether this effect was can be explained by the salience of the appraisal of problem-focused coping potential.