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date: 06 December 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Studies of populism increasingly theorize about its causes. Most arguments highlight the rational, material side of populist appeals or their connection to political identity. However, these arguments focus on regional varieties of populism, give little attention to the individual level of voter cognition, and overlook the role of populist ideas. In this chapter, we outline and critique these theories while offering a new approach. This theory builds on the ideational definition championed by other contributors to the Handbook, arguing that populism is a normative response to perceived crises of democratic legitimacy. Populist attitudes are not invented by politicians to fill a gap in the citizens’ psyche, but constitute a pre-existing set of beliefs that can be activated under certain contexts.

Keywords: populism, ideational, causal arguments, theories, attitudes, individual level, rational-choice, identity

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