Wouter van der Brug, Sebastian Popa, Sarah B. Hobolt, Hermann Schmitt
Democratic support, populism, and the incumbency effect

Journal of Democracy, 2021: 32, Heft 4, S. 131-145
ISSN: 1045-5736 (print), 1086-3214 (online)

Many have argued that the rise of populism presents a danger to liberal democracy. But do supporters of populist parties oppose liberal democracy? Using an original survey instrument covering 28 European democracies, we examine support for aspects of liberal democracy among populist- and nonpopulist-party supporters. Our findings show that it is not primarily populism, but rather incumbency status that correlates with a lack of support for liberal-democratic norms that can constrain majority rule. This is especially the case for radical-right party supporters who favor liberal democracy when in opposition, but oppose core liberal-democratic norms when in government.