Reinhard C. Heinisch, Christina Holtz-Bacha, Oscar Mazzoleni (Ed.)

Political Populism, page 329 - 344

A Handbook

1. Edition 2017, ISBN print: 978-3-8487-2534-2, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-7149-1,

Series: International Studies on Populism, vol. 3

Bibliographic information
CHAPTER 19: POPULISM AND DEMOCRACY—THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL CONSIDERATIONS1 Robert A. Huber and Christian H. Schimpf Introduction Populist actors2 are seemingly an omnipresent phenomenon in today’s global political landscape (see de la Torre 2015). For examples of this phenomenon, we can look to the Americas (Gratius 2007; Oliver and Rahn 2016; Rovira Kaltwasser 2015), Europe (Mudde 2007; van Kessel 2015), Africa (Resnick 2015) and the Asia-Pacific region (Snow and Moffitt 2012; Moffitt 2015). In addition to the various topics discussed throughout this volume, scholars have also debated the impact that the presence of populist actors has had on other mainstream parties (Bale 2010; Bale et al. 2014; Bale 2003; van Spanje 2010) in terms of both democracy in general and democratic quality in particular. In this chapter, we introduce and examine the different points of view in this debate. These range from portraying populist actors as either good or bad for democracy (Tannsjö 1992; Urbinati 1998) to ascribing a dual role to them in the sense of their functioning as both a threat and a corrective (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012). We also consider how actor-inherent features (political role and host ideology) and contextual factors (democratic consolidation of a country) influence the particular relationship between a populist actor and the quality of democracy. Finally, we discuss how the two concepts of populism and democracy can be measured to establish valid empirical evidence. ‘Populism’ and ‘Democracy’ − An Ambivalent Relationship? In this volume, Heinisch and Mazzoleni have already elaborated on the different ways in which populism has been defined. For this chapter, we rely on a general concept that is suitable for application to most of the standard definitions used in contemporary populism research. We understand populism as a set of ideas that encompasses anti-elitism, the belief in a general will of the people (volonté générale) and a Manichean outlook (Hawkins 2009; Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2013; Rovira Kaltwasser 2014; Rooduijn 2014). While this view of populism remains broad, it does capture the essential ingredients of populism that various scholars agree upon in their definitions and concepts (Rooduijn 2014). As van Kessel (2015: 8) points out, the different interpretations are not problematic from an empirical perspective “as long as there is a consensus about the concept’s attributes.” Thus, whether populism is con- 1 The authors would like to thank Kirk Hawkins, Reinhard Heinisch and Saskia Ruth for comments on earlier drafts of this chapter. Christian Schimpf acknowledges the support by the University of Mannheim’s Graduate School of Economics and Social Sciences funded by the German Research Foundation. 2 Throughout this chapter, we use ‘populist actors’ to refer to both populist parties (for example, in Europe) and populist politicians (for example, in Latin America). 329 ceived as a thin-centred ideology (Mudde 2004) or a frame (see Heinisch and Muzzolini in this volume), it is essential to understand that the underlying ideas form the reference points for any action taken by populist actors. When surveying the literature on populism, we observe that scholars focus on the relationship between two specific understandings of democracy and populism the most: representative democracy (for example, Taggart 2002; 2004) and liberal democracy (for example, Pappas 2016; Plattner 2010). We discuss both strands in tandem with each other in our review and, suffice it to say, populism is at odds with both these forms of democracy for similar reasons: Populist actors reject the representative character of democracy because, in their view, nonmajoritarian representation prevents clean implementation of the general will of the people. For the same reason, these actors are also at odds with liberal democracy because within it power can never be absolute. Moreover, liberal democracy requires pluralism, which rejects the very idea of a homogeneous people with unified interests and thus the notion of a general will (volonté générale). Due to the fact that for populist actors there is only one particular will, any institutions/rules (for example, a system of checks and balances) designed to limit power and balance against the majority is anathema to populist actors and their central ideas.3 For these reasons, we review and discuss these two concepts of democracy together. Before reviewing the literature on populism in greater detail, it is necessary, however, to emphasise that while populist parties can be radical (Mudde 2007), they are, when viewed from a theoretical perspective, not considered to be extreme. Extreme parties differ from (radical) populist parties in that the former are anti-constitutional (anti-democratic), whereas populist parties are not (Betz 1994; Pappas 2016). Instead, populist actors are strong critics of the democratic system but, as such, attempt to obey the rules of democratic contestation (Griffin 1999; Rensmann 2006). Rensman (2003; 2006) also highlights differences between the political goals of these two types of parties. Extreme parties strive to establish an autocratic regime in which the people are part of the whole. Populist parties glorify the will of the people, which they consider to be the “ultimate source of legitimacy” (van Kessel 2015: 15). A grey area between radicalism and extremism certainly exists, which makes it hard to place each and every populist actor in one of the two categories. Yet, this distinction helps one to understand why in the following analysis populist actors are not considered anti-democratic but rather can present both a challenge to and opportunity for certain aspects of democracy, such as minority rights and mutual constraints, but also accountability. Democracy in its most basic meaning refers to the rule or power of the people. In today’s societies, this is often understood as the rule of the majority expressed through fair and free elections (Plattner 2010). In a representative democracy, voters elect individuals and parties to represent the interests of the people (Urbinati 2011). However, it is almost equally recognised that majoritarianism by itself does not constitute what we visualise as a democracy. Rather, a political regime, in order to be considered democratic, must also “guarantee the freedom or liberty of its citizens” (Plattner 2010: 84). If democracy is enshrined in a (written) constitution, in combination with limitations imposed on the government by the rule of law, we then talk of a constitutional or liberal democracy. In this way, a liberal democracy always implies 3 In fact, Pappas (2016) suggests that we should define populist parties based on the criterion of anti-liberalism. That is, all parties that are democratic (for example, not extreme) and anti-liberal in their tactics are populist parties. All other parties are not. Robert A. Huber and Christian H. Schimpf 330 an internal struggle for balancing popular rule, on the one hand, with anti-majoritarian constraints, on the other. The United States’ idea of checks and balances is perhaps the bestknown example of this internal tension within liberal democracy. It is also evident that representative and liberal democracy are not distinctive but, rather, complementary ideas. The question that arises is how populist actors relate to this view of democracy, since according to several scholars (for example, Plattner 2010) liberal democracy is the one form with which populism is most at odds. Populist actors criticise the representative character of democracy (Taggart 2002). In their minds, there should be no intermediary who converts the people’s will. Rather, democracy ought to be a process through which the general will is directly implemented through plebiscitary measures (Abts and Rummens 2007; Barr 2009; von Beyme 2014; Canovan 2002; van Kessel 2015; Meny and Surel 2002).4 In a similar manner, populist actors advocate positions that are at odds with liberal democracy. Sharing the conviction that the volonté générale should be the point of reference for all decisions taken in a polity, populist actors consider any anti-majoritarian elements to be unnecessary. This is not to say that populists are anti-democratic per se as they are perfectly accepting of democratic outcomes under majoritarianism (Tännsjö 1992).5 Populist actors, rather, perceive the general will to be the majority, which serves to finalise political decisions and mandates their implementation without any further questions. For these reasons, populist actors “have little patience with liberalism’s emphasis on procedural niceties and protections for individual rights” (Plattner 2010: 88).6 Urbinati (1998) also stresses the critical role of pluralism in democracy, and liberal democracy in particular. Based on her theoretical framework, she portrays populism as the opposite rather than the prototype of democracy. She considers it a more moderate form of fascism, and concludes that populism is in conflict with any form of plurality. According to Urbinati, these roots in fascism lead to the transformation of society into an entity “where class and ideological differences are denied and mastered in the attempt to fulfil the myth of a comprehensive totality of state and society” (Urbinati 1998: 110). Thus, she criticises the populists’ division of society into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups. Already, Tännsjö, Plattner and Urbinati reflect how a central idea of populism, the volonté générale, shapes its relationship with democracy, most specifically liberal democracy. However, as liberal democracy eventually rests on two pillars, subsequent works have thus begun to consider the idea that populist actors may play a dual role in democracy by redeeming or strengthening the majoritarian side while working against anti-majoritarian elements. 4 For a different view, see Müller (2016) who argues that populist actors do not reject representative democracy per-se. Rather, these actors claim to be the only legitimate representatives because only they can represent the true will of the people. In turn, the do not argue against representative democracy but rather, those parties and politicians that are frequently elected into office. Plebiscitary measures then do not become an instrument to derive (and implement) the general will. Instead, they function as means to confirm what the respective populist actors considers as the only correct policy going forward. 5 Populism, although conceptualised slightly differently, was criticised precisely on these grounds by Riker (1982). The scholar argues and shows, based on social-choice theory, that the general will can never be implemented through elections and, thus, the view would have to be rejected. 6 Some scholars argue that because the balance between ‘liberal logic’ (protecting minorities, preventing absolute power) and ‘democratic logic’ (majoritarian focus) has suffered at the expense of the latter, populist parties have been able to rise as a result (Mouffe 2000). As representatives of the democratic logic, they represent a counterweight, which can achieve balance between the two antagonistic logics (see also Meny and Surel 2002). CHAPTER 19: POPULISM AND DEMOCRACY 331 Beyond a One-dimensional Relationship Canovan (1999) builds on the idea that democracy is characterised by two traits: the pragmatic style of politics (where institutions mediate conflict) and the redemptive vision (“government of the people, by the people, for the people”; Canovan 1999: 10). One of Canovan’s (1999) central points is that populist actors oppose institutions and, thus, representation as these hinder the implementation of the volonté générale. Therefore, populist actors work against the pragmatic style of democracy. Yet, populists agree with the redemptive face of democracy because it focuses on the vox populi vox dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God). Ultimately, populists act in the nexus between these two faces of democracy and try to replace its two pillars with a version of democracy in which the redemptive vision is positioned at the core. By considering the possibility that populist actors may have different and even contradictory consequences for democracy. Canovan (1999) has paved the way for many works that followed her initial publication.7 In their book, Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser (2012), for instance, contend that the role (whether in government or opposition) that populist actors take on determines what potential effects populist actors can have on (liberal) democracy (be they positive or negative). In contrast, populist parties have strong incentives to increase mobilisation and participation, thereby potentially strengthening the quality of democracy (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012). These mobilisation efforts, for example, can result in the inclusion of disenfranchised parts of society, such as ethnic minorities (for example, indigenous groups in Latin America) and other groups (such as individuals who hold extreme political views), in the political realm (Gratius 2007). Similarly, their criticism of the political establishment can lead to higher levels of accountability and responsiveness among elites to diverse views within the electorate (Müller 2002; Heinisch 2003). Populist actors also challenge prevailing views on how democracy works (for example, by demanding the implementation of instruments of direct democracy) and, as a result, foster a discourse that forces constant review of the political mechanisms in place (Barr 2009).8 In government, however, populist actors can undermine mutual constraints and exclude minorities (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012). Due to their strong focus on the volonté générale, populists shift focus exclusively to the redemptive side of democracy (Canovan 1999). As a result, populist actors can undercut political institutions which, in their view, hinder the proper implementation of the general will. This is also reflected in the ‘anything goes’ attitude that populist actors embrace and which manifests itself in a strong Manichean discourse (Hawkins 2003: 1156). To achieve their goal of more direct implementation of the general will, populist actors have also extensively used plebiscitary measures to legitimise their efforts (Roberts 2012: 154; Walker 2008). Furthermore, while populist actors tend to include certain segments of society who have previously received less representation to increase their vote share in opposition, populists exclude other actors to secure the former’s newly gained 7 For an extensive response to Canovan (1999), see Arditi (2004). 8 Due to their strong belief in a general will of the people, populist parties propose, for instance, to expand the use of direct democratic mechanisms. Walker (2008) and Roberts (2012), for example, mention that Chávez in Venezuela actively tried to bypass political institutions in Latin America by using plebiscitary measures. Eventually, he exploited these options to change the constitution. Robert A. Huber and Christian H. Schimpf 332 powers. These excluded groups comprise the former elite, while they claim that the groups who are included comprise the people (see Ruth and Hawkins in this volume). To summarise, theoretical arguments suggest that populist actors play a dual role in democracy. However, in most instances, the effects listed above are moderated by a variety of different factors, such as the level of democratic consolidation. Moderating Factors Although scholars argue that the relationship between populist actors and democracy plays out irrespective of time and place, the presence of these actors does not lead to equal levels of erosion or improvement in all countries. Instead, a series of moderating factors constrain the possible effects. These include, for example, the level of democratic consolidation in a given state or the type of government of which populist actors are a part. In their model, Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser (2012) propose that the level of democratic consolidation moderates the extent to which the potential effects of populist actors on the quality of democracy play out.9 The more consolidated democracies are, that is, the more developed political institutions are, the smaller the expected impact of populist actors on the quality of democracy (regardless of their role). For instance, in countries where a system of checks and balances is well established, populist actors in government will find it harder to reduce the strength of such a system. Empirically, comparative studies find support for this argument in Latin America (for example, Huber and Schimpf 2016b) but not in Europe (Huber and Schimpf 2016a). Researchers who focus on populist actors in government also suggest that the extent to which populist actors influence the level of democracy in a given country depends on the type of government of which they are a part (Albertazzi 2008; Huber and Schimpf 2016a).10 They argue that the relative strength that populist actors have within the cabinet limits their overall power. In a government in which more than the minimum number of parties necessary for a majority are in the cabinet, populist parties are assumed to exert less influence because their veto power is small (as opposed to, for instance, minority governments where each cabinet member holds considerably more power). New empirical analyses in the European context support this argument (Huber and Schimpf 2016a).11 Similarly, the overall power (for example, share of seats in government, number of cabinet posts) of a populist actor may be significant for the degree to which such an actor influences 9 Because populist actors do not oppose democracy per se, we shall from here on talk about their effect on the quality of democracy, which refers to the implementation of standards in accordance with the concept of (liberal) democracy (Beetham 2004). A high-quality democracy guarantees its citizens “a high degree of freedom, political equality, and popular control over public policies and policymakers through the legitimate and lawful functioning of stable institutions” (Diamond and Morlino 2005, xi). 10 This argument is not applicable to presidential systems (for example, in most Latin American states) in which power resides with a president rather than with a government carried by a majority in parliament. 11 For populist actors in government, Allred et al. (2015) also argue that, while not necessarily constrained or moderated in their effect, they need time in order to have their full effect on democracy. Consecutive terms in government, therefore, increase the extent of the negative effects on four different aspects of democracy: executive constraints, electoral quality, civil liberties and press freedom. The empirical results by Allred et al. (2015) indeed indicate that potentially erosive effects only play out after populists have been reconfirmed in office in a second election. Ruth and Hawkins (in this volume) support these findings and find similar effects for contestation and participation. CHAPTER 19: POPULISM AND DEMOCRACY 333 the quality of (liberal) democracy.12 Although this point has yet to be studied in greater depth, studies of presidential power (for example, Metcalf 2000) and the power of parties in parliaments (Tsebelis 1995) highlight that, in a simple form, power leads to opportunities and influence. Initial work supports this idea and finds that more public support tends to increase opportunities for populist presidents in Latin America to erode systems of checks and balances (Ruth 2015). Given that most countries in Latin America have presidential systems in which office holders are granted extensive powers by virtue of the law, high public support and low levels of consolidation have created fertile ground for populists like Hugo Chávez to erode the system of checks and balances. In contrast, in (Western) Europe, where parliamentary systems are coupled with higher levels of democratic consolidation, populist actors have had far fewer opportunities to implement similar wide-ranging changes. Finally, we briefly want to highlight the role of what is referred to as host ideology (Huber and Schimpf 2016c) in the context of populism. A host ideology is a set of ideas and orientations rooted in different belief systems that accompanies the populist ideational dimension, and is an inherent feature of populism. Whether populist actors are left wing or right wing, their world view, and ultimately their policy proposals, may be restricted by ideas stemming from the host ideology (see, for example, Converse 1964). In turn, this can lead to large differences in how populists relate to dimensions of the quality of democracy. This, perhaps, becomes clearest when we consider minority rights, in which case right-wing populist parties propose solutions that involve exclusion, whereas left-wing populist parties promote inclusion (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2013). These opposing views result in different ways of handling this issue. We may conclude that the discussion of how populist actors relate to democracy has shown that while there remain contradictory views about their positive and/or negative effects, there has been a shift in the understanding of this connection. Scholars have gradually established that the relationship may be more complex than merely assuming that populist actors are either good or bad. Rather, they may have dual effects depending on their role. Additional factors, such as democratic consolidation, moderate these effects. However, this review has also shown that scholars use numerous concepts not only for the independent variable of ‘populism’ but also for democracy. Table 19.1 provides an overview of the different effects populist actors are seen to have on democracy. From an empirical standpoint, this raises the question of how to best measure these concepts to test arguments empirically. Therefore, in the subsequent section we discuss some of the different forms of measurement that are available. In an effort to provide a meaningful assessment, we compare these measurements based on empirical applications to a set of cases in which populist actors have been part of the government or held the presidency. 12 In particular, the share of seats held by a populist party in parliament, for instance, may be significant given that, all things being equal, a larger seat share increases the power of a party to decisively influence coalition formation and power allocation (see, for example, Austin-Smith and Banks 1988; Christensen 2016; Folke 2014). Robert A. Huber and Christian H. Schimpf 334 Su m m ar y of E ffe ct s Ef fe ct Ti m e Po te nt ia l m od er at or s D im en si on M ec ha ni sm So ur ce Po si tiv e M os tly w he n in o pp os iti on In cr ea se in re sp on si ve ne ss , ac co un ta bi lit y a) Pu tti ng f or w ar d im po rta nt y et n eg le ct ed is su es b) H ol di ng g ov er nm en t t o ac co un t va n C ot t 1 99 4; D eL an ge a nd A kk er m an 2 01 2; H aw ki ns 2 00 3, 1 14 2; H ei ni sc h 20 08 ; H ub er a nd Sc hi m pf 2 01 6c ; M ud de a nd R ov ira K al tw as se r 20 12 , 2 1; M ül le r 2 00 2 Po si tiv e M os tly w he n in o pp os iti on Pa rt of so ci et y m ay de pe nd o n ho st id eo lo gy In cl us io n of e xc lu de d se gm en ts o f s oc ie ty R ep re se nt in g th ei r i nt er es t i n or de r t o m ax im iz e vo te sh ar e va n C ot t 1 99 4; G ra tiu s 2 00 7; H an le y 20 12 ; H ub er a nd S ch im pf 2 01 6c ; M ud de a nd R ov ira K al tw as se r 2 01 2, 2 1; W eb be r 2 01 1 Po si tiv e In g ov er nm en t C on se cu tiv e te rm s R ep re se nt at io n th ro ug h po lic ie s Im pl em en tin g po lic ie s t ha t w er e pr om is ed to ac hi ev e of fic e A llr ed e t a l. 20 15 ; M ud de a nd R ov ira K al tw as se r 2 01 2, 2 1; R ut h an d H aw ki ns in th is vo lu m e Po si tiv e B ui ld in g br id ge s be yo nd c la ss b ar rie rs C om bi ni ng in te re st s a nd re pr es en tin g se ve ra l c la ss es B et z 20 15 ; B ru hn 2 01 2, 9 0; M ud de a nd R ov ira K al tw as se r 2 01 2, 2 1 Po si tiv e Fo st er in g di sc ou rs e on ho w d em oc ra cy sh ou ld w or k C al lin g fo r s tro ng er d ire ct d em oc ra tic m ea su re s t o im pl em en t t he ir m aj or ita ria n w or ld vi ew M ud de a nd R ov ira K al tw as se r 2 01 2, 2 1; Pa pa do po ul os 2 00 2; T ag ga rt 20 02 Po si tiv e H os t i de ol og y In di vi du al li be rti es D ep en di ng o n th e ho st id eo lo gy , p op ul is t p ar tie s m ig ht b e at o dd s w ith e co no m ic ri gh ts , r el ig io us fr ee do m s, an d in di vi du al li be rti es , s uc h as th e rig ht s of L G B T pe op le o r w om en H ub er a nd S ch im pf 2 01 6c N eg at iv e In g ov er nm en t C on so lid at io n, c ab in et ty pe , a nd c on se cu tiv e te rm s M ut ua l c on st ra in ts Er od in g m ut ua l c on st ra in ts b ec au se th ey h in de r t he im pl em en ta tio n of th e vo lo nt é gé né ra le . P le bi sc ita ry in st ru m en ts a re o fte n us ed to im pl em en t o r ac ce le ra te th is d ev el op m en t A lb er ta zz i a nd M cD on ne ll 20 08 ; A llr ed e t a l. 20 15 ; H aw ki ns 2 00 3; H ub er a nd S ch im pf 20 16 a; M ud de a nd R ov ira K al tw as se r 2 01 2, 2 1; R ob er ts 2 01 2; W al ke r 2 00 8 N eg at iv e In g ov er nm en t C on so lid at io n, h os t id eo lo gy , c ab in et ty pe , an d co ns ec ut iv e te rm s M in or ity ri gh ts M in or ity ri gh ts a re u nd er m in ed b y ap pl yi ng m aj or ita ria n in st ru m en ts A llr ed e t a l. 20 15 ; A kk er m an 2 01 2; E m er so n 20 11 ; H ub er a nd S ch im pf 2 01 6b , 2 01 6b ; M ud de an d R ov ira K al tw as se r 2 01 2, 2 1; R yd gr en 2 00 8 N eg at iv e C re at e ne w c le av ag es (p op ul is ts a ga in st n on po pu lis ts ) D ue to th ei r s tro ng a nt i-e st ab lis hm en t c ha ra ct er , th ey th er eb y m ak e th e fo rm at io n of st ab le c oa lit io ns ha rd er M ud de a nd R ov ira K al tw as se r 2 01 2, 2 1 N eg at iv e M or al iz at io n of p ol iti cs B ec au se th ey u se a M an ic he an d is co ur se to di st in gu is h be tw ee n go od p eo pl e an d th e ba d el ite , th ey m ak e co m pr om is es a nd c on se ns us e xt re m el y di ff ic ul t M ud de a nd R ov ira K al tw as se r 2 01 2, 2 1; W ey la nd 2 00 9 N eg at iv e C on so lid at io n D el eg iti m iz at io n of po lit ic s Fo st er in g pl eb is ci ta ry p ol iti cs u nd er m in es th e le gi tim ac y of p ol iti ca l i ns tit ut io ns M ud de a nd R ov ira K al tw as se r 2 01 2, 2 1– 22 N ot e: E m pt y ti m e fie ld s su gg es t th at t he se e ff ec ts c an o cc ur r eg ar dl es s of r ol e or o th er c on st el la ti on s. Ta bl e 19 .1 : CHAPTER 19: POPULISM AND DEMOCRACY 335 Empirical Strategies: Measurement and Research Designs In this section, we want to illustrate the different kinds of empirical measures and strategies that have been used for examining how populist actors relate to democracy and the quality of democracy in particular. Measuring populism The measuring of populism is gaining importance, as illustrated by the increasing number of studies that seek to determine how populist particular politicians are (Jagers and Walgrave 2007; Hawkins 2009; Hawkins and Castanho Silva 2016; Pauwels 2014; Pauwels in this volume; Rooduijn and Akkerman 2015). This, of course, also has implications for the study of populism and democracy. Arguably, most would agree that any actor to which the central ideas of populism are crucial would fit well into the discussion thus far.13 Yet, to some populist actors, these ideas may be more central than to others. Some actors may apply populist frames more than others, which could then be measured as such (Heinisch und Mazzoleni in this volume). While both would probably fit the definition of a populist party, even along a continuous scale, actors embracing populist ideas are most likely to have a different effect on democracy than actors to whom populism is less central. The extent to which democracy is affected would arguably change, whereas the directions the effect takes would not. The challenge then lies with scholars to expand and improve on existing gradual measurements of populism to facilitate these types of analyses (for example, Hawkins and Castanho Silva 2016; Pauwels in this volume, Ruth and Hawkins in this volume). Measuring Quality of Democracy In this final section, we touch on existing measures for democracy and quality of democracy respectively. We focus our discussion on four measures in particular: the Liberal Democracy Index (from here on: LDI) from the Varieties of Democracy Project (Coppedge et al. 2016); the Polity IV Index (Marschall et al. 2016); the Unified Democracy Index (UDS) (Pemstein et al. 2010); and the Democracy Barometer (from here on DB; Merkel et al. 2016). We wish to highlight that this research field is characterised by the variety of methods and approaches that scholars have taken.14 To this extent, our discussions are more immediately relevant to quantitative studies. Nonetheless, the principles of measurement apply to any other approach in similar ways (Mahoney and Goertz 2006), and incorporating some of the measures below into qualitative analyses (for example, for purposes of illustration) may also strengthen authors’ arguments. 13 This applies to those who conceive of populism as a thin-centred ideology where views guide actions, as well as to those who define populism as a frame that functions as a guideline for actions. 14 These include qualitative case studies (see, for example, DeLange and Akkerman 2012; Fallend 2012; Fallend and Heinisch 2016; Hawkins 2003, 2009; Heinisch 2003; Roberts 2012), comparative studies (see, for example, Akkerman and DeLange 2012; Albertazzi and Mueller 2013; Moffitt 2015; Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2012; Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2013) and quantitative works (Allred et al. 2016; Houle and Kenny 2016; Hawkins and Ruth in this volume; Ruth 2015). Robert A. Huber and Christian H. Schimpf 336 As highlighted earlier, populism is theorised as being more at odds with liberal democracy than is the case for any other type of democracy. Thus, the question that arises is how we can assess liberal democracy and, more particularly, its quality. The LDI stands out as perhaps the clearest measurement because its underlying conception is tailored to capture solely the essential elements of liberal democracy. In contrast, the Polity IV measurement seeks to measure institutional changes. To this extent, it is, for instance, well suited to capturing changes in systems of checks and balances. This is helpful in evaluating if and how populist actors might erode the institutions they oppose. Because Polity IV focuses on mostly institutional aspects, it is unlikely to measure nuanced changes in more established democracies, such as in Western Europe. Compared to the other two indices, the UDS and the DB are broader with regard to what they measure. The UDS essentially combines a series of existing indices into one measure. Thus, the UDS, while not aiming to capture the specifics of liberal democracy, can function as an additional source for examining the relationship between populism and democracy in slightly broader terms. The DB measurement is not as broad as the UDS, but it is considerably more detailed than other measures, such as Polity IV (Bühlmann et al. 2012). It is based on liberal and participatory aspects of democracy (Merkel et al. 2016) and thus offers an interesting alternative to the LDI. Figure 19.1: Democracy Scores Compared—Austria (1990–2012) Figure 19.1: Democracy Scores Compared - Austria (1990-2012) To show the difference between these four measurements descriptively, we chose four countries that were all governed by populists for some period during the last two decades: Austria (the Freedom Party of Austria), Hungary (Fidesz), Slovakia (Smer Party) and Venezuela (Hugo Chávez—Movimiento Quinta República). In Figures 19.1 through to 19.4, we illustrate the differences by comparing the timeline of the measurements within the same country. By looking at Figure 19.1, in which we compare democracy scores for Austria, where in 2000 the CHAPTER 19: POPULISM AND DEMOCRACY 337 right-wing populist Freedom Party entered the government in a coalition with the Christian Democrats, we can already observe some notable differences between the scores. Polity IV displays a straight line and, thus, reinforces our point that this particular measurement may be less suited to capturing nuances in consolidated democracies. For the other three measurements, we can see that while UDS measures a decrease in the quality of democracy, the LDI remains flat while the DB records a short increase, and then a decrease. For the other countries, we note similar patterns (except for Venezuela in Figure 19.4). As is the case for Austria, Polity IV also does not show any change in the quality of democratic institutions over time for Hungary (Figure 19.2). For the first period of populist government (1998–2002), we see that the UDS and DB show similar trends (a short period of improvement followed by a period of decline), whereas the LDI shows a declining trend. However, all three measurements share the fact that, after Fidesz returned to government in 2010, all three indices measure a similar, declining trend in the quality of democracy. For Slovakia (Figure 19.3), the differences during the Smer cabinet range from decline (DB) and improvement (LDI) to an up-and-down pattern (UDS). While once again showing significant improvement early on in the timeline, Polity IV remains flat (at its maximum) during the populist government period. Finally, we take a look at Venezuela (Figure 19.4). All four indices measure a strong decline in their respective measurements of quality of democracy after Hugo Chávez began his presidency in 1999. The Polity IV trend strengthens our point that this particular measure may be well suited to capturing institutional changes. Figure 19.2: Democracy Scores Compared—Hungary (1990–2012) Figure 19.2: Democracy Scores Compared – Hungary (1990-2012) Robert A. Huber and Christian H. Schimpf 338 Figure 19.3: Democracy Scores Compared—Slovakia (1990–2012) Figure 19.4: Democracy Scores Compared—Venezuela (1990–2012) Figure 19.4: Democracy Scores Compared - Venezuela (1990-2012) Overall, this comparison illustrates that when one is measuring the quality of democracy empirically to examine how populism relates to it, it is essential to understand the underlying concepts that different indices capture. The DB and LID exemplify that even if two measurements build on the same concept, they may still deviate in the results they show. Thus, any analysis should treat measurements with care and precision so that the applied concept of democracy aligns with the empirical measurements. Furthermore, scholars should include different indices where possible to establish an empirical line of evidence that is robust against CHAPTER 19: POPULISM AND DEMOCRACY 339 various theoretical, conceptual and empirical (for example, measurement error15) differences and issues. Another possibility when examining how populist actors relate to democracy and the quality of democracy respectively is to consider democracy’s various dimensions and sub-dimensions. In several studies, scholars show, for instance, how populist actors influence levels of participation (for example, Immerzeel and Pickup 2015; Houle and Kenny 2016) and institutions of horizontal accountability (for example, Allred et al. 2015). These works have used sub-dimensions of the indices to create a measure tailored to specific needs.16 Considering these aspects, rather than a large concept such as the quality of liberal democracy, opens up two possibilities that are worth pointing out. First, analyses of sub-dimensions can help us understand further nuanced differences between, for instance, different types of populist parties. By looking at the aspect of minority rights in isolation, one may wish to study how left-wing and right-wing populist parties differ in the way they can affect the quality of democracy given that both propose different visions for society (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2013; Huber and Schimpf 2016c). Second, these types of analyses can foster the tracing of causal paths in greater detail and increase the application of research designs specifically tailored towards the issue of identifying causality. Houle and Kenny (2016) examine, for instance, how populist presidents in Latin America affect the rule of law, participation in elections and redistribution. The focus on these three sub-dimensions of democracy enables the authors to apply instrumental variable estimations which, despite their well-known shortcomings (Angrist and Pischke 2009, Ch. 4), present an interesting step in the direction of causal theory testing. Concluding Remarks and Outlook In this chapter, we have presented and discussed academic research that deals with the question of how populist actors relate to democracy in general and liberal democracy (quality of democracy) in particular. Furthermore, we raised issues pertaining to the measurement of both key variables. Overall, our review and discussions led us to the following conclusions: First, the relationship between populist actors and democracy is considerably more nuanced, other than in cases in which populists do not oppose democracy per se. Hence, their presence may not lead to a complete breakdown or the erosion of democracy as we know it. Rather, there are numerous factors (for example, the exact role within a political system) that can influence whether populist actors erode or even enhance the quality of democracy. Second, measuring both populism but also the quality of democracy remains challenging. While researchers continue to work towards creating a reliable continuous measurement of populism, we can already choose from various options in order to measure the quality of democracy. The key is to not only choose between them, based on theoretical and conceptual grounds, but also to compare the outcomes against different measurements of the quality of democracy to validate the findings from central analyses. 15 On this point, it is well worth pointing out that measurements, such as the UDS or the LDI, provide their users with confidence intervals that allow measurement errors to be directly taken into account. 16 Huber and Schimpf (2016a) have also explored the possibility of extracting sub-dimensions from the DB to create a more specific measurement of the quality of liberal democracy. Robert A. Huber and Christian H. Schimpf 340 With the results of both these theoretical and empirical studies in mind, the question is: Where do we go from here? We propose that future research should consider two points in particular: First, as has been the case for various questions related to populism, empirical studies are still limited in their scope of application with their enduring focus on Latin America and Europe in particular. These two regions are among the most interesting given their long history of populism and, by now (in some countries), fairly established populist forces. Yet, other countries, such as Australia (Mouffitt 2015), Japan (Mizuno and Phongpaichit 2009) or Zambia (Resnick 2015) have seen populist actors come and go as well. This raises the question of to what extent existing theories and arguments are applicable to these cases and, if they are not, what we can learn from them. Second, our discussion of measurements implies that not only can different indices lead to slightly different results, but also that there is much to explore in terms of the sub-dimensions of these contexts. 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All over Europe, we are currently witnessing populist political parties and figures enjoying success in elections and mobilising the electorate against the supposed elite. The most recent example of this political development is the Brexit campaign in the UK, which demonstrated that populists can exert considerable influence over political decisions. Populist parties are also enjoying election successes outside Europe; this phenomenon has been occurring in the US and Latin America for a long time, for example.

The new “Handbook on Political Populism” offers a comprehensive theoretical and empirical introduction to populist politics in Europe, the Americas and beyond. It focuses on explaining the phenomenon of populism as a consequence of the crisis of the representational system and aims to highlight the controversies and limits of current academic research and debate on the subject.

With contributions from:

Tjitske Akkerman, Wolfgang Aschauer, Hans-Georg Betz, María Esperanza Casullo, Paula Diehl, Sarah C. Dingler, Flavia Freidenberg, Sergiu Gherghina, Vlastimil Havlík, Kirk A. Hawkins, Reinhard Heinisch, Christina Holtz-Bacha, Robert A. Huber, Gilles Ivaldi, Benjamin Krämer, Maria Elisabetta Lanzone, Zoe Lefkofridi, Dietmar Loch, Vanessa Marent, Miroslav Mareš, Alfio Mastropaolo, Oscar Mazzoleni, Sergiu Miscoiu, Teun Pauwels, Franca Roncarolo, Saskia Pauline Ruth, Carlo Ruzza, Steven Saxonberg, Christian H. Schimpf, Damir Skenderovic, Sorina Soare, Lone Sorensen and Sandra Vergari.


Allenthalben in Europa sehen wir Wahlerfolge populistischer Parteien und Akteure, die die Wählerschaft gegen vermeintliche Eliten mobilisieren. Jüngstes Beispiel dieser politischen Entwicklung ist die Wahlkampagne für den Brexit in Großbritannien, die verdeutlichte, dass Populisten einen erheblichen Einfluss auf politische Entscheidungen haben können. Auch jenseits von Europa verzeichnen populistische Parteien Wahlerfolge; gerade in den Vereinigten Staaten und in Lateinamerika ist dieses Phänomen schon lange bekannt.

Das neue Handbook on Political Populism bietet eine umfangreiche theoretische wie empirische Einführung in die populistische Politik in Europa, in Nord- und in Südamerika und darüber hinaus. Das Hauptaugenmerk des Werkes liegt auf der Erklärung des Phänomens „Populismus“ als Folge einer Legitimationskrise des repräsentativen Systems. Ein besonderes Ziel des Handbuchs ist es, die Kontroversen und Grenzen in der derzeitigen wissenschaftlichen Auseinandersetzung aufzuzeigen.

Mit Beiträgen von:

Tjitske Akkerman, Wolfgang Aschauer, Hans-Georg Betz, María Esperanza Casullo, Paula Diehl, Sarah C. Dingler, Flavia Freidenberg, Sergiu Gherghina, Vlastimil Havlík, Kirk A. Hawkins, Reinhard Heinisch, Christina Holtz-Bacha, Robert A. Huber, Gilles Ivaldi, Benjamin Krämer, Maria Elisabetta Lanzone, Zoe Lefkofridi, Dietmar Loch, Vanessa Marent, Miroslav Mareš, Alfio Mastropaolo, Oscar Mazzoleni, Sergiu Miscoiu, Teun Pauwels, Franca Roncarolo, Saskia Pauline Ruth, Carlo Ruzza, Steven Saxonberg, Christian H. Schimpf, Damir Skenderovic, Sorina Soare, Lone Sorensen und Sandra Vergari.