Institutionalisation of Political Parties: Comparative Cases. Edited by Robert Harmel and Lars G. Svasand

Alienated Voters and Anti-Elitist Parties: The Mobilization of the Unheard Voices by Populist Parties

Comparative Politics
Political Parties
Macarena Ares
University of Zurich
Macarena Ares
University of Zurich
Enrique Hernández
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Anti-elitism has been considered one of the defining traits of populist parties. The claim that the people have been betrayed by an unresponsive set of institutions dominated by detached political elites lies at the core of the populist rhetoric. As a consequence, populist voting has been frequently considered a means for citizens to express discontent with the ruling elites. It is therefore not surprising to find numerous studies analyzing the relationship between generic attitudes, such as dissatisfaction with democracy or distrust in political institutions, and the vote for populist parties. In this paper, however, we focus on a more specific attitudinal orientation, namely, on external political efficacy, which directly captures individuals’ beliefs about the responsiveness of governmental authorities and institutions to common people’s demands. Moreover, we focus on a particular characteristic of populist parties: their anti-elitist rhetoric. We combine new data on parties’ degree of anti-elitism (from 2014 CHES) with a set of new indicators (included in ESS-7) designed to capture citizens’ external efficacy to analyze whether inefficacious citizens are more likely to vote for anti-elitist parties. However, our interest goes beyond establishing a simple association between efficacy and anti-elitist voting. Firstly, because other than casting a vote for a populist party inefficacious citizens might simply withdraw from electoral politics. Secondly, because individual grievances cannot be studied in isolation from individual resources and the characteristics of the populist parties themselves. We explicitly account for this by first including abstention as an alternative to populist voting. Furthermore, we also account for how mobilization of inefficacious individuals by populist parties depends on: the socio-economic characteristics of citizens (such as being a modernization loser), and the specific ideological profile of the anti-elitist parties present in a given country (such as their position on redistributive or immigration issues).
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"Politics determines the process of "who gets what, when, and how"" - Harold Lasswell

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