Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version



Published (2022) Engaging Populism: Democracy and the Intellectual Virtues, pp. 27-42. (Springer) DOI: 10.1007/978-3-031-05785-4_2


Used by permission.


Political scientists have argued that populism is an ideology that can occur on both the left and right, whereby people begin to see politics as a battle between the people and a powerful elite that fails to represent the people’s interest and are attracted to political candidates who vow to fight corruption. In this chapter, I examine how research in political psychology may help to explain the motivations underlying citizens’ attraction to populist ideologies and political candidates. I argue that the same cognitive processes driving people toward populism are those that undermine the intellectual virtues, which in turn, decreases support for democratic norms and can lead to democratic backsliding. In particular, I examine the role of affective states like threat, uncertainty, and anger in driving both increased support for populism and decreased support for open-minded discussion and debate. I also consider whether and how misinformation and attraction to conspiracy theories mediate the link between populism and antidemocratic tendencies.