Combating Populism: A Toolkit for Liberal Democratic Actors

Combating Populism: A Toolkit for Liberal Democratic Actors. Center for a New American Security. Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Carisa Nietsche. March 19, 2020

The rise of populism in Europe and the United States is well documented. Although studies may disagree about the relative importance of populism’s drivers, there is broad consensus that rising inequality, declining bonds to established traditional parties, increasing salience of identity politics, and economic grievance have played a role in fuelling populism’s rise. Although populism is a symptom of democracy’s larger problems, the strategies and tactics populist parties and leaders use also provide their own, direct threat to liberal democracy. Many of the tactics that populist leaders use weaken democratic institutions and constraints on executive power. Populism is also detrimental to democracy because it exacerbates political polarization, which makes it hard for democracy to effectively function. As societies grow more polarized, people become willing to tolerate abuses of power and sacrifice democratic principles if doing so advances their side’s interests and keeps the other side out of power. The polarization that populism fuels, in other words, increases the risk of democratic decline.
This report offers recommendations for combating populism. It translates key findings from cutting-edge academic research in the political science, political psychology, sociology, and communications disciplines into practical, evidence-based recommendations. The first set of recommendations is intended to equip political parties, politicians, and candidates to create a political context more conducive to the success of liberal democratic actors. Research shows that context matters—although many people may hold populist attitudes, these attitudes must be activated by the political context to translate into votes for populist leaders. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 22 pages].

The Democracy Playbook: Preventing and Reversing Democratic Backsliding

The Democracy Playbook: Preventing and Reversing Democratic Backsliding. Brookings Institution. Norman Eisen et al. November 2019

The Democracy Playbook sets forth strategies and actions that supporters of liberal democracy can implement to halt and reverse democratic backsliding and make democratic institutions work more effectively for citizens. The strategies are deeply rooted in the evidence: what the scholarship and practice of democracy teach us about what does and does not work. We hope that diverse groups and individuals will find the syntheses herein useful as they design catered, context-specific strategies for contesting and resisting the illiberal toolkit. This playbook is organized into two principal sections: one dealing with actions that domestic actors can take within democracies, including retrenching ones, and the second section addressing the role of international actors in supporting and empowering pro-democracy actors on the ground. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 100 pages].

European Public Opinion Three Decades After the Fall of Communism

European Public Opinion Three Decades After the Fall of Communism. Pew Research Center. Richard Wike et al. October 15, 2019.

Most embrace democracy and the EU, but many worry about the political and economic future

Thirty years ago, a wave of optimism swept across Europe as walls and regimes fell, and long-oppressed publics embraced open societies, open markets and a more united Europe. Three decades later, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that few people in the former Eastern Bloc regret the monumental changes of 1989-1991. Yet, neither are they entirely content with their current political or economic circumstances. Indeed, like their Western European counterparts, substantial shares of Central and Eastern European citizens worry about the future on issues like inequality and the functioning of their political systems. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 189 pages].

Clinton, Trump Supporters Have Starkly Different Views of a Changing Nation

Clinton, Trump Supporters Have Starkly Different Views of a Changing Nation. Pew Research Center. August 18, 2016.

Supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump disagree on a range of policy issues, from terrorism to free trade. Yet they also have more fundamental differences over long-term changes in the country and the next generation’s future prospects. The survey finds that Trump supporters overwhelmingly believe that life in America is worse than it was 50 years ago “for people like them.” Most Clinton supporters take the opposite view: 59% say life for people like them has gotten better over the past half-century, while 19% think it has gotten worse and 18% see little change. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 76 pages, 1.27 MB].

15 Years After 9/11, a Sharp Partisan Divide on Ability of Terrorists to Strike U.S.

15 Years After 9/11, a Sharp Partisan Divide on Ability of Terrorists to Strike U.S. Pew Research Center. September 7, 2016.

As the 15th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, partisan differences over the ability of terrorists to launch a major attack on the United States are now as wide as at any point dating back to 2002. As the 15th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, partisan differences over the ability of terrorists to launch a major attack on the United States are now as wide as at any point dating back to 2002. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 12 pages, 387.50 KB].

In Clinton’s March to Nomination, Many Democrats Changed Their Minds

In Clinton’s March to Nomination, Many Democrats Changed Their Minds. Pew Research Center. July 25, 2016.

Hillary Clinton led Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination in every survey conducted throughout the party’s primaries. But many Democratic voters vacillated in their candidate support throughout this period. Today, however, overwhelming shares of all Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters – including 90% who consistently supported Sanders for the nomination – back Clinton in the general election against Donald Trump. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 11 pages, 424.30 KB].

Evangelicals Rally to Trump, Religious ‘Nones’ Back Clinton

Evangelicals Rally to Trump, Religious ‘Nones’ Back Clinton. Pew Research Center. July 13, 2016.

Evangelical voters are rallying strongly in favor of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Despite the professed wariness toward Trump among many high-profile evangelical Christian leaders, evangelicals as a whole are, if anything, even more strongly supportive of Trump than they were of Mitt Romney at a similar point in the 2012 campaign. At that time, nearly three-quarters of white evangelical Protestant registered voters said they planned to vote for Romney, including one-quarter who “strongly” supported him. Now, fully 78% of white evangelical voters say they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, including about a third who “strongly” back his campaign. Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated voters – those who describe their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular” – are lining up behind Hillary Clinton over Trump, much as they supported Barack Obama over Romney in 2012. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 39 pages, 1.47 MB].

Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016

Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016. Pew Research Center. June 22, 2016.

The 2016 campaign is unfolding against a backdrop of intense partisan division and animosity. Partisans’ views of the opposing party are now more negative than at any point in nearly a quarter of a century. For the first time in surveys dating to 1992, majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party. And today, sizable shares of both Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but fear and anger. More than half of Democrats (55%) say the Republican Party makes them “afraid,” while 49% of Republicans say the same about the Democratic Party. Among those highly engaged in politics – those who say they vote regularly and either volunteer for or donate to campaigns – fully 70% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans say they are afraid of the other party. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 105 pages, 2.05 MB].

GOP’s Favorability Rating Edges Lower

GOP’s Favorability Rating Edges Lower. Pew Research Center. April 28, 2016.

The Republican Party’s image, already quite negative, has slipped since last fall. Currently 33% of the public has a favorable impression of the Republican Party, while 62% have an unfavorable view. Unfavorable opinions of the GOP are now as high as at any point since 1992. In October, 37% viewed the Republican Party favorably and 58% viewed it unfavorably. The decline in favorability since then has largely come among Republicans themselves: In the current survey, 68% of Republicans view their party positively, down from 79% last fall. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 11 pages, 371.01 KB].

A Wider Ideological Gap Between More and Less Educated Adults

A Wider Ideological Gap Between More and Less Educated Adults. Pew Research Center. April 26, 2016.

Two years ago, Pew Research Center found that Republicans and Democrats were more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the previous two decades. But growing ideological distance is not confined to partisanship. There are also growing ideological divisions along educational and generational lines. Highly educated adults, particularly those who have attended graduate school, are far more likely than those with less education to take predominantly liberal positions across a range of political values. And these differences have increased over the past two decades. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 17 pages, 480.45 KB].