the FINANCIAL -- Nationalist populism has become a major force in European politics. But while such populism has long been thought to have its roots in economic anxiety, a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data suggests there are additional factors at play.
Those who have a favorable opinion of populist parties in Germany and Sweden, for example, are only slightly less likely than those with unfavorable views to be upbeat about the economy. Roughly three-quarters (77%) of those who have a favorable opinion of the populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD) say their country’s economic situation is good; that compares with 87% among other Germans. Similarly, three-quarters of those with a positive view of the populist Sweden Democrats party say their country’s economic situation is good, compared with 91% among other Swedes.
In other countries, populist party backers stand out less on the economy. In Italy, for instance, only 15% of the populist Northern League’s supporters give the Italian economy a thumbs-up, roughly on par with the 18% of others in the Italian public who also hold a downbeat view.
Nostalgia may be a better predictor of populist sentiments. Roughly six-in-ten French adults with a positive view of the populist National Front (62%) say life in France is worse today for people like them than it was 50 years ago. Only about four-in-ten (41%) of the rest of the French population share that perspective. In Germany, 44% of AfD supporters say life today is worse than 50 years ago; that compares with just 16% of other Germans. Those with populist sympathies in Sweden and the Netherlands similarly lament the passing of better times in the past.