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.Populism and economic insecurity correlationThis 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.


  1. Emma 17 June 2018 at 5:29 pm

    It’s not surprising but it’s interesting to have it confirmed by a serious survey.

    1. Andrew Blackman 21 June 2018 at 1:23 pm

      Yes, it’s not surprising to me either, Emma. Unfortunately, I’ve seen lots of analysis where people want to look pretty much everywhere else except at the most obvious explanation…

  2. Brian Joseph 18 August 2018 at 2:39 pm

    This is the greatest issue of our time. I agree that economic insecurity is a major factor, and perhaps the biggest factor.

    Personal observation in regards to these things is meaningless. With that, I find it frustrating that without exception every Trump supporter that I know personally is very economically secure.

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 21 August 2018 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Brian
      Always good to hear from you! You make a good point—there are plenty of Trump supporters who are very economically secure. Sometimes people characterise “Trump voters” as almost exclusively working class, and a similar thing happens with “Brexit voters” in the UK. But while economic insecurity is a big problem and has fired up a lot of Trump supporters, there are also plenty of richer people who support him for very different reasons.


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