Abstract

Kirk A. Hawkins, Scott Riding, and Cas Mudde, "Measuring Populist Attitudes", January 2012

Although populism has long been argued to be a key feature of American politics, until now no measurement model for populist attitudes at the individual level exists. This article presents a new, survey-based measurement model of populist attitudes, tests its robustness and empirical applicability by using it to examine the distribution of populist attitudes among the American public. Data come from two U.S. surveys, both conducted for the general elections of 2008: the Utah Colleges Exit Poll and the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey. We find that our survey questions hold together well and demonstrate that populist attitudes are in fact rather common. Our measures also correlate in theoretically consistent ways with such individual-level attributes as ideology, partisanship, education, wealth, positions on immigration, and gender. To make certain that we are not simply tapping into a general anti-establishment sentiment, we relate our measurement model to three related concepts: pluralism, considered one of the anti-theses of populism; a measure of ideology based on issue positions; and Hibbing and Theiss-Morse’s concept of “stealth democracy.”

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