European Populism in the Shadow of the Great Recession, edited by Hanspeter Kriesi & Takis S Pappas

Research Papers & Analysis

About the Book

This volume, covering twenty-five populist parties in seventeen European states, presents the first comparative study of the impact of the Great Recession on populism.

Based on a common analytical framework, chapters offer a highly differentiated view of how the interplay between economic and political crises helped produce patterns of populist development across Europe.

Populism grew strongly in Southern and Central-Eastern Europe, particularly where an economic crisis developed in tandem with a political one. Nordic populism went also on the rise, but this region’s populist parties have been surprisingly responsible. In Western Europe, populism actually contracted during the crisis – with the exception of France.

As for the two Anglo-Saxon countries, while the UK has experienced the rise of a strong anti-European populist force, Ireland stands out as a rare case in which no such a party has risen in spite of the severity of its economic and political crises.


Published: May 2015

Publisher: ECPR Press

The gender gap in populist radical-right voting: examining the demand side in Western and Eastern Europe, Eelco Harteveld, Wouter Van Der Brug, Stefan Dahlberg & Andrej Kokkonen

Research Papers & Analysis


In most countries, men are more likely to vote for parties of the populist radical right (PRR) than women. The authors argue here that there are two mechanisms that might potentially explain this gender gap: mediation (women’s attitudes and characteristics differ from men’s in ways that explain the PRR vote) and moderation (women vote for different reasons than men). They apply these two mechanisms to general theories of support for PRR parties—the socio-structural model, the discontent model, and the policy vote model—and test these on a large sample of voters in seventeen Western and Eastern European countries. The study shows that the gender gap is produced by a combination of moderation and mediation. Socio-structural differences between men and women exist, but the extent to which they explain the gender gap is limited, and primarily restricted to post-Communist countries. Furthermore, women generally do not differ from men in their level of nativism, authoritarianism or discontent with democracy. Among women, however, these attitudes are less strongly related to a radical-right vote. This suggests that men consider the issues of the radical right to be more salient, but also that these parties deter women for reasons other than the content of their political programme. While the existing research has focused almost exclusively on mediation, we show that moderation and mediation contribute almost equally to the gender gap.

Published online: 15 Apr 2015, in Patterns of Prejudice, Volume 49, Issue 1-2, pages 103-134, DOI: 10.1080/0031322X.2015.1024399,

Gendering the vote for populist radical-right parties, Niels Spierings & Andrej Zaslove

Research Papers & Analysis


Why do more men than women vote for populist radical-right (PRR) parties? And do more men than women still vote for the PRR? Can attitudes regarding gender and gender equality explain these differences (if they exist)? These are the questions that Spierings and Zaslove explore in this article. They begin with an analysis of men’s and women’s voting patterns for PRR parties in seven countries, comparing these results with voting for mainstream (left-wing and right-wing) parties. They then examine the relationship between attitudes and votes for the populist radical right, focusing on economic redistribution, immigration, trust in the European Union, law and order, environmental protection, personal freedom and development, support for gender equality, and homosexuality. They conclude that more men than women do indeed support PRR parties, as many studies have previously demonstrated. However, the difference is often overemphasized in the literature, in part since it is examined in isolation and not compared with voting for (centre-right) mainstream parties. Moreover, the most important reasons that voters support PRR parties seem to be the same for men and for women; both vote for the populist radical right because of their opposition to immigration. In general, there are no consistent cross-country patterns regarding gender attitudes explaining differences between men and women. There are some recurring country-specific findings though. Most notably: first, among women, economic positions seem to matter less; and economically more left-wing (and those with anti-immigrant attitudes) women also vote for the PRR in Belgium, France, Norway and Switzerland; and, second, those who hold authoritarian or nativist views in combination with a strong belief that gays and lesbians should be able to ‘live their lives as they choose’ are disproportionately much more likely to vote for PRR parties in Sweden and Norway. Despite these findings, Spierings and Zaslove argue that the so-called ‘gender gap’ is often overemphasized. In other words, it appears that populist radical-right parties, with respect to sex and gender, are in many ways simply a more radical version of centre-right parties.

Published online: 15 Apr 2015, in Patterns of Prejudice, Volume 49, Issue 1-2, pages 135-162, DOI: 10.1080/0031322X.2015.1024404,

Populism in power: Syriza’s challenge to Europe, Yannis Stavrakakis

Research Papers & Analysis


Syriza has increased its domestic popularity even as it confronts deep institutional resistance to its anti-austerity agenda. Yannis Stavrakakis argues that, in voicing the ‘despair and demands’ of the Greek people, Syriza has been able to convert populism in opposition into charismatic leadership in power.

Published online: 5 MAR 2015, in Juncture, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp. 273-280 DOI: 10.1111/j.2050-5876.2015.00817.x,

Populist Parties in Europe: Agents of Discontent?, Stijn van Kessel

Research Papers & Analysis


Populism is a concept that is currently in vogue among political commentators and is, more often than not, used pejoratively. The phenomenon of populism is typically seen as something adverse and, in the European context, routinely related to xenophobic politics. What populism exactly is and who its representatives across Europe are, however, often remains unclear. This text has two main aims: to identify populist parties in 21st-century Europe and to explain their electoral performance. It argues that populist parties should not be dismissed as dangerous pariahs out of hand but, rather, that their rise tells us something about the state of representative democracy. The study also shows that the performance of populist parties is to a large extend dependent on their own ability to present themselves as credible alternatives to the established parties.

The study has a broad scope, including populist parties of various ideological kinds – thus moving beyond examples of the ‘right’ – and covering long-established Western European countries as well as post-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe. It presents the results of an innovative mixed-methods research project, combining a fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) of 31 European countries with three in-depth case studies of the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Published: February 2015

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Sample Chapter:

The Place of the People in Post-Democracy. Researching ‘Antipopulism’ and Post-Democracy in Crisis-Ridden Greece, Giorgos Katsambekis

Research Papers & Analysis


The aim of this article is to investigate “antipopulism” as a distinct discursive repertoire that marginalizes “the people” as the legitimizing cornerstone of democracy. After providing an account of the Greek post-democratic transition from the mid-nineties onwards, I will then delve into what could be described as the “populism/anti-populism” ideologicopolitical divide, as it manifests in the Greek political system and also on the European level during the past few years, and especially within the ongoing crisis. The main hypothesis is that “anti-populism” can be seen as a crucial aspect of post-democracy, introducing what could be described as a peculiar Ideological State Apparatus in the Althusserian sense; a way to marginalize disagreement and democratic dissensus and discipline a public sphere in an age dominated by technocratic virtue, expert knowledge and ‘consensus politics’.

Published in POSTData: Revista de Reflexión y Análisis Político, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 555-582,

Left-wing populism in the European periphery: the case of SYRIZA, Yannis Stavrakakis & Giorgos Katsambekis

Research Papers & Analysis


Due to its electoral performance in the 2012 general elections, SYRIZA, a previously unknown Greek political formation of the radical left, gained unprecedented visibility within the European public sphere. How is this strong showing and the political message articulated by SYRIZA to be interpreted? Utilizing a discursive methodology, this paper puts to the test the two assumptions predominating in most available analyses, namely that SYRIZA articulates a populist rhetoric, that it constitutes a predominantly populist force; and, given the near-exclusive association of populism with extreme right-wing movements, that SYRIZA constitutes a populist danger for Europe. Our analysis concludes that SYRIZA’s discourse is indeed a distinct articulation of left-wing populism. However, this by no means vindicates the second part of the prevailing wisdom: SYRIZA’s portrayal as a dangerous force threatening fundamental European values. If, however, this is the case, then mainstream research orientations in the study of European populism may have to be reviewed.

Published in the Journal of Political Ideologies, Volume 19, Issue 2, 2014 (June 9),

The European populist challenge, Yannis Stavrakakis

Research Papers & Analysis


In today’s Europe, the word ‘populism’ usually refers to right-wing populism or the populist extreme right. Is, however, the concept of ‘populism’ the proper theoreticopolitical instrument through which such identifications should be perceived, categorized and debated? What are the implications (direct and indirect) of such a naming? And what are the risks for critical analysis and for democratic politics in the European context? The hypothesis explored in this essay is that sticking to a restrictive association between ‘populism’ and the extreme right poses certain dangers that have to be seriously taken into account, especially in times of crisis. For a start, it is often premised on a rather simplistic euro-centrism that reduces the broad conceptual spectrum covered by the category ‘populism’ in its global use to a very particular European experience and then essentializes the resulting association, over-extending its scope. In addition, the category ‘populism’ is often used to describe political forces, identities and discourses in which the role of ‘the people’ is only secondary or peripheral, to the extent that it has to coincide with strongly hierarchical and elitist visions of society. What complicates things even further is that, within the context of the European (economic and political) crisis, whoever questions/ resists the austerity agenda – especially on the left – is increasingly discredited and denounced as an irresponsible populist. Indeed, it is not by coincidence that doubts are increasingly voiced both in the theoretical and in the political literature regarding the rationale behind such a strong association between populism and the extreme right. A series of points will thus be raised that may help us develop a plausible theoretico-political strategy in the new emerging conditions from a discursive perspective.

Annals of the Croatian Political Science Association (10/2013),