The Diffusion of Populism


While the domestic effects of populism are well known, the potential cross-border effects are not well understood. Is it the case that populism diffuses across borders, or rather are countries merely reacting similarly to contemporaneous exogenous shocks? Some argue that, like democratization, populism occurs in waves where entrepreneurial populists in one country take the success of their populist brethren in another as a signal of likely success. Others maintain that rises in populism within a country do not necessarily lead to rises in neighboring countries, but rather contemporaneous economic or immigration shocks simply lead to correlated demands for populism. We explore this by building a measure of party populism, allowing us to not only measure rises in support for populist parties, but also increases in populist rhetoric among more traditionally mainstream parties. Then, utilizing spatial diffusion models we analyze whether rises in populism in one country seep across borders, or rather remain domestically confined.


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