Politični populizem na pohodu: ponudba sledi povpraševanju

Raziskovalci Guiso et al (2017) so naredili zelo dobro empirično raziskavo vzrokov za vzpon političnega populizma na Zahodu. Njihove ugotovitve so pravzaprav pričakovane. Prvič, povpraševanje po populističnih voditeljih se poveča v času povečane ekonomske negotovosti. V zadnjem desetletju so bili triggerji povezani predvsem s procesom globalizacije in globalno finančno krizo, ki sta privedla do povečane brezposelnosti in finančnih težav posameznikov. K temu je svoje dodala še begunska kriza (in napačen odziv nanjo), ki je prav tako povečala ekonomsko negotovost.

Drugič, povečano povpaševanje negotovih volilcev po politikih, ki obljubljajo hitre in sanjske rešitve, za seboj potegne tudi povečano ponudbo populističnih politikov in strank.

Tretjič, vzpon populizma v veliki meri omogoči volilna abstinenca volilcev, ki so izgubili zaupanje v etablirane politične stranke. Ker se zmerni volilci umaknejo, imajo v njihovi odsotnosti populistični politiki in stranke več možnosti, da na volitvah močno povečajo svoje “tržne” deleže.

In četrtič, ko se populistična gibanja močno razširijo ali celo povzpnejo na oblast, tudi ostale (zmerne) stranke v boju za politične točke in volilne glasove prilagodijo oziroma radikalizirajo svojo politično retoriko. Morajo, če hočejo politično preživeti. Torej ko duh populizma enkrat pobegne iz steklenice, se vzpon populizma kot perpetuum mobile samopoganja.

Odprto ostaja vprašanje, kaj ta populistični naboj izprazni. Zmanjšanje ekonomske negotovosti (izboljšanje ekonomskega položaja in dolgoročne perspektive volilcev) je najbrž pravi odgovor na to. Vendar pa je vprašanje, ali tega trenda zmanjševanja ekonomske negotovosti ne prehiti konflikt – vojaški konflikt na nacionalni ali mednarodni ravni. Kajti populisti na oblasti imajo vgrajne odlične politične kalkulatorje, ki jim povedo, da lahko svojo priljubljenost vzdržujejo le prek ekspanzije, zato jo morajo trajno spodbujati s preobračanjem fokusa na domače ali tuje “sovražnike”. Na žide, priseljence, tuje “izkoriščevalce”, potencialne agresorje, zgodovinske krivice itd. Napad ni samo najboljša obramba, pač pa edina možnost vzdrževanja populizma.

Ne vem, v kateri fazi smo danes. Se je trend ekonomske negotovosti že dovolj obrnil, da bi lahko vodil k zmanjšanju povpraševanja po političnem populizmu? Zadnji volilni izidi (ZDA, Nemčija, Avstrija; svetla izjema je le Francija) tega ne kažejo.

The unexpected spread of populism in western countries has triggered enormous interest (e.g. Dustmann et al. 2017). In the last year the number of Google searches for the word “populism” has increased by a factor of five, compared to the average between 2012 and 2015. Why should this be happening now, in so many places at the same time? We argue that economic reasons are the most important causes of  the current wave of populism.

In western countries in the last decade a global crisis that has affected both markets and sovereign states simultaneously, leaving many people without a safety net. This had not been the case in the past: the crises of the 1970s were mainly market crises, while in the 1990s there were government crises while markets were thriving. Over the past ten years, neither markets nor governments have had the inability to guarantee economic security. This has shaken the confidence in traditional political parties and institutions. As a result, there has been an increase in fear, aggravated by other threats such as mass migration.

The rare combination of markets’ and governments’ inability to guarantee economic security has shaken the confidence in traditional political parties and institutions, leading to an increase in fear that has been aggravated by other threats such as mass migration. In a recent paper, we show how this global dual crisis affects the demand and supply of populism systematically, and argue that a key for understanding both demand and supply of populism is the effect of economic insecurity on voter turnout (Guiso et al., 2016).

Several scholars have addressed populism recently. Algan et al. (2017) studied the political consequences of the great recession in Europe. They showed that in post-2008 elections EU regions that experienced higher unemployment gave more support to populists. They also demonstrated that regions in which unemployment rose experienced the sharpest decline of trust in institutions and traditional politics. Dustman et al. (2017) agreed, showing that after the crisis mistrust towards European institutions, largely explained by worse economic conditions in Eurozone countries, is positively correlated with populist voting. Foster and Frieden (2017) developed this result using individual characteristics from Eurobarometer survey data, and also showed that the link between mistrust and populism is more pronounced in debtor countries.

Rodrik (2017) is the only recent paper that had focused on the supply side. He traced the origin of today’s populism (mainly if not uniquely) back to the globalisation shock, arguing that history and economic theory imply that waves of globalisation can predictably lead to a populist backlash with a specific timing (when the shock hits) and geographical pattern (in countries most adversely affected by globalisation). While the globalisation shock generated a demand for populist policies, Rodrik stressed the importance of simultaneously understanding the supply side of the rise in populism, specifically the chosen orientation of populist parties. He argued that this reflected the relative salience of specific cleavages induced by the globalisation shock.

In 2000, less than 70% of European countries had a populist party. By 2009 they all had at least one (though in the later years of the sample, some countries lost their populist party). Our conceptual framework suggests that the presence of populist parties in a country would be heavily affected by how much potential demand there was for it. If underlying support was sufficiently large, a populist platform would be more likely to emerge.

Above, we saw that economic insecurity undermines confidence in political parties and creates political space for a populist platform with strong anti-elite rhetoric and a supply of short-term protection. Economic insecurity should be therefore be the major factor that explains the presence of populist parties. A populist party should emerge if elector disappointment caused by insecurity exceeds the cost of setting up a party.

We find that the presence of populist parties in the political arena was strongly affected by economic insecurity, and discouraged by the presence of relevant non-aligned parties. Non-aligned parties weaken the effectiveness of the anti-elite rhetoric, and this raises the cost of entry.

We also find that populist parties lean left or right depending on the relative salience of left-type or right-type cleavages, weighted with the share of left-oriented and right-oriented voters. The successful entry of a populist party changes the subsequent electoral competition game, and induces traditional parties to adapt their political platforms to those of the populist. This implies that the disinformation supply and anti-elite rhetoric make it difficult to pursue a contrarian, credible anti-populist campaign.

Using the CHES, we build a distance between the position of traditional and populist parties with regards to several issues. We find that, in all issues, the distance decreases as populist parties gain support. When this happens, non-populist parties seem to adapt their platforms to reduce the distance from that of the successful populist party. Increasing the share of votes to the populist party by one standard deviation (16 percentage points) reduces the distance between the non-populist and populist overall platforms by 33% of the sample mean.

Vir: Guiso et al (2017), VoxEU

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