Individuals support for populist parties

Topic: Individuals’ support for populist parties.

Research question: “Does high ethnic diversity in a community predict higher support for the populist parties within the community?”

Van Assche, et al. (2018 ) have argued that the diversity of ethnicity leads to political cynicism and mistrust in that greater the ethnic diversity in the society, greater the political cynicism and less the trust. Their research was based in the Netherlands and it found that both objective and perceived diversity were associated with more political cynicism and less trust in individuals who had professed high right-wing attitudes characterised by support for social dominance orientation and authoritarianism (Van Assche, et al. 2018 ). Political cynicism was posited in this research as a factor that predicts populist party support by the people in the society (Van Assche, et al. 2018 ).


Similarly, in a research based in the United States where data was collected from over 30,000 participants, Putnam (2007) concluded that greater incidence of ethnic diversity leads to less trust within ethnic groups and has implications for ideas that individuals may have about engagement in politics. Putnam (2007) found that greater diversity in the ethnicities led to greater political scepticism which was characterised by decreased confidence in local government and leaders, which is explained as less belief in political efficacy, and fewer expectations from politics. The research conducted suggests that there is a possible correlation between ethnic diversity on one hand and political trust and political cynicism on the other hand (Van Assche, et al. 2018 ).

There is a suggested link between increased political cynicism in communities and the increased support and engagement with the populist parties, which may be populist parties located at both extreme ends of the political continuum (Van Assche, et al. 2018 ). However, the evidence on the point that there is a negative correlation between diversity and political cynicism is not conclusive because there is another research study by Hewstone (2015), which challenges the correlation by using concepts in social psychology. Hewstone (2015) argues that much of the research, including the study by Putnam (2007) does not include the variables of direct intergroup contact for decreasing prejudice and leading to the association between diversity, trust, prejudice, and social capital. Hewstone (2015) raises the issue of whether there is applicability of the contact theory to explain the impact on attitudes toward members of other groups.

Although not on the same lines, another article that relates psychology to the issue of populist voting is by Bakker, Rooduijn and Schumacher (2016 ) who found that some of the reasons for such voting patterns are related to the psychology of the individual which may lead to the voting for the populist parties. While this does not relate to the same psychological factors that Hewstone (2015) writes about, but it does make an argument that individuals do vote on the basis of their psychology and this is evidenced by the study’s findings that participants who score low on Agreeableness in terms of personality traits, when matched with anti-establishment message does link to voting for populist parties (Bakker, Rooduijn and Schumacher 2016 ). This evidence was based on the data collected from the United States, the Netherlands and Germany (Bakker, Rooduijn and Schumacher 2016 ). Therefore, there is some scope for exploring the extent to which higher support for the populist parties within the community can be explained high ethnic diversity in a community.

To conclude, the literature review at this point supports the explanatory question as there is some existing literature on the link between higher support for the populist parties within the community and high ethnic diversity in a community while there is also some doubt on how far this link can be justified.

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Bakker, Bert N., Matthijs Rooduijn, and Gijs Schumacher. 2016 . "The psychological roots of populist voting: Evidence from the United States, the Netherlands and Germany." European Journal of Political Research 55 (2): 302-320.

Hewstone, M. 2015. "Consequences of diversity for social cohesion and prejudice: The missing dimension of intergroup contact." Journal of Social Issues 71 (2): 417-438.

Putnam, R. D. 2007. "E pluribus unum: Diversity and community in the twenty‐first century: the 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture." Scandinavian Political Studies 30 : 137-174.

Van Assche, J., K. Dhont, A. Van Hiel, and A. Roets. 2018 . "Ethnic diversity and support for populist parties: the “right” road through political cynicism and lack of trust." SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY 49 (3): 182-189.

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