Over the past few years, people have been wringing their hands over the rise of populism, whether it’s far-right parties in Europe, Brexiteers in the UK or Trump in the US. Now, academics have found the rise in populism is correlated with a rise in economic insecurity.
Sometimes, the most obvious explanation is actually the correct one.
Over the past few years, people have been wringing their hands over the rise of populism, whether it’s far-right parties in Europe, Brexiteers in the UK or Trump in the US. Is it Facebook’s fault? Is it the media? Is it because of terrorism or the refugee crisis or a general decline in trust in institutions? Is it all a Russian plot?
Well, the academics have crunched the numbers and come to an unsurprising conclusion: the rise in populism is very much correlated with a rise in economic insecurity.This is not a new phenomenon. There are plenty of examples in history of people being more attracted to populism when things are hard for them, just as politicians are more likely to use scapegoating and divisive tactics to take attention away from the real problem.
Correlation doesn’t mean causation, of course, and this is not pure economic determinism at work. You can read the original article for more on how the various different factors mix together. But I think it’s good to be reminded that people like Donald Trump do not fall from the sky. They arrive at a particular time when the conditions are right, and those are usually times when a lot of people are getting shafted by the status quo.
Why is this so hard for so many media pundits and columnists to understand? Because they are the status quo.