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Populism and Illiberalism

November 15 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Speaker: Jasmin Sarah König (University of Hamburg) and Michael Jankowski (University of Oldenburg)

The literature on populists is divided: should populist pose a threat to democracy or should they be seen as a democratic corrective? The papers this week focus on the link between populist and liberal democracy. This week’s sessions address two questions: Do courts, tame populists, in power? And second, under what conditions are populist individuals willing to support illiberal policies?

Jasmin Sarah König (University of Hamburg) Do Populist Governments Produce Unconstitutional Policies?

Evidence from Austria, 1980-2020    Populism and constitutional democracy are at odds with one another. Still, increasingly more populist parties have joined governments in liberal democratic countries in the last decades. This is often regarded as an opportunity to `tame’ populist parties. We utilize constitutional court decisions as a measure of constitutionality to asses the impact of populist parties in government on policy output. If populists in government follow through and translate their agenda into legislative activity, this should be reflected in the frequency of laws invalidated by high courts. But, if populists in government are indeed `tamed’ in office, we should not see a rise in constitutional repeals. We rely on a novel data set of more than 3000 laws under review at the Austrian Constitutional Court between 1980 and 2020. Our results show that policies by populist governments are not invalidated more often, indicating that coalition partners can effectively pressure populists into policy moderation and constitutional compliance.

Michael Jankowski (University of Oldenburg) Sympathy for the devil? Voter support for illiberal politicians

Many democracies are witnessing the rise and continuing success of parties and politicians who oppose fundamental principles of liberal democracy. Do voters support such politicians despite or because of their illiberal attitudes? We use a survey experiment conducted in Germany to address this question. The results demonstrate that voters are willing to support illiberal politicians when policy congruence is high, suggesting that policy positions are more important to voters than attitudes towards liberal democracy. We also find that populist and authoritarian voters are generally more likely to support illiberal politicians. Overall, the results have important implications as they suggest that voters are quite willing to support illiberal politicians once they share the same policy positions.



November 15
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm