European support for populist beliefs declines

Joel Rogers de WaalAcademic Director, YouGov
November 18, 2021, 2:35 PM GMT+0

According to new findings from The Guardian’s annual populism tracker, produced each year as part of the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project, public support for populist beliefs is seeing a sustained decline across a number of European countries.

The latest results from the study show a clear slump since 2019 in the number of mainland Europeans who tend to agree with a list of statements designed to measure populist sentiment.

In France, for example, the percentage of French adults who believe “the will of the people should be the highest principle in this country’s politics” has fallen from 66% in 2019 to 62% in 2020 and 55% in 2021.

A batch of other countries reflect the same phenomenon, such as Germany (66%, 63%, 61%), Denmark (61%, 56%, 50%), Spain (75%, 68%, 65%), Poland (80%, 71%, 65%), Britain (66%, 50%, 56%), Brazil (84%, 82%, 74%) and Mexico (73%, 61%, 55%). We find a similar pattern since 2019 for the notion that “My country is divided between ordinary people and the corrupt elites who exploit them”, including in France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Poland and Mexico.

Moreover, despite concerns about the growth of conspiracism within mainstream public opinion during the pandemic, various countries in the study show a sustained slump overall compared with two years ago for sentiments such as “the power of a few special interests prevents our country from making progress” or that “a lot of important information is deliberately concealed from the public out of self-interest”.

Interestingly, one country in the West that continues to buck these trends is the US, with little change in overall levels of agreement with any of the statements in the study over three years of annual polling. India and Thailand tell a somewhat comparable story, suggesting that certain forms of anti-establishment discontent are fairly well entrenched in these countries.

Importantly, however, across the full range of results in twenty-two countries involved in the research, there are also no significant trends shift the other way between 2019 and 2021, perhaps suggesting the kudos of populist-style beliefs has already peaked in various parts of the world.

Another finding that continues to stand out from these results is how Denmark seems to be something of an anti-populist nation, with strikingly low levels of agreement with most of the statements, compared with other countries.

See results.

For more about the Globalism Project, see here.

Image: Getty

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The YouGov-Cambridge Centre for Public Opinion Research is a joint research centre run by YouGov and the Cambridge University POLIS Department, which promotes in-depth collaboration between pollsters and academic experts. Alongside research and events, the Centre contributes to teaching at the University and provides several postgraduate scholarships each year.
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