New book


Cultural Backlash:

The rise of Populist-Authoritarianism

Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart

Populist challengers have disrupted long established patterns of party competition in many contemporary Western societies, as exemplified by Donald Trump in the US, Marine Le Pen in France,  Nigel Farage in the UK, and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

Intense alarm about this phenomenon may have exaggerated the threat.[i]  But populist parties have gained votes and seats in many countries, and entered government coalitions in eleven Western democracies, including Austria, Italy, and Switzerland.[ii]Across Europe, their average share of the vote in national and European parliamentary elections has more than doubled since the 1960s,  from around 5.1% to 13.2%.[iii] During the same era, their share of seats has tripled, from 3.8% to 12.8%.

Even in countries with few seats, these parties can still exert tremendous ‘blackmail’ pressure on governments, public discourse, and the policy agenda, as illustrated by UKIP’s role in catalyzing the British exit from the European Union, with massive consequences.

What is Populist-Authoritarianism?

Populist-Authoritarianism is defined as a philosophy and style of governance which blends two sets of ideas.

Populist parties are defined as those which endorse popular sovereignty and direct democracy at any cost, if necessary over-riding minority rights, elite expertise, constitutional checks-and-balances, conventional practices, and decision-making by elected representatives.  Populists typically adopt a rhetorical language and governing style which challenges the authority, neutrality, and expertise of traditional establishment elites.   In practice, supporters express faith in being led by maverick and transgressive outsiders (‘none-of-the-above’) who maintain direct links with their followers, through public rallies, television studios, and social media, with leaders articulating the authentic voice, virtue, and experience of ordinary people.

Authoritarian parties and leaders adopt policy positions which endorse the values of tough security against threats from outsiders, xenophobic nationalism, strict adherence to conventional moral norms, and intolerance of multiculturalism. This orientation underpins competitive authoritarian regimes.

The danger is that authoritarianism corrodes principles and practices at the heart of liberal democracy. This includes respect for norms of live-and-let-live fair play, constraints on partisanship, the protection of civil liberties, and the value of consensus-building; the importance of a bright line clearly separating personal and political interests; the unambiguous rejection of political violence and the active defense of human rights; the value of tolerating a multicultural diversity of lifestyles, beliefs, and ideas;  and the importance of cosmopolitanism, open borders, and multilateral cooperation.

It is worth emphasizing that not all populists are authoritarian, and not all authoritarians are populists, by any means. Populists may also challenge the establishment to advance a progressive agenda. But Populist-Authoritarian parties and leaders blend both these potent appeals.  

The classification of European Populist-Authoritarian parties can be seen here.

Explaining the rise of this phenomenon

The electoral fortunes of Populist-Authoritarian parties, leaders and issues are open to multiple explanations which can be grouped into accounts focused on (1) the demand-side of public opinion, (2) the supply-side of party strategies, and (3) institutional arrangements governing the rules of the electoral game. Each component remains important for a comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon.

This project for a new book “Cultural Backlash” seeks to analyze the phenomenon of Populist-Authoritarianism and its mass appeal as a style of governance which threatens progressive values as well as core principles and practices of liberal democracy.

Cultural Backlash: The Rise of Populist Authoritarianism

Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart

Forthcoming, Fall 2018


Preface and acknowledgments

List of tables and figures

I: Introduction

1. The cultural backlash theory

2. Evidence and methods

3. Defining and classifying populist parties

II: Comparative evidence

4. The rise of progressive values, cultural losers, and generational replacement

5. Global migration, ethnic diversity, and terrorist threats

6. Financial shocks, global trade, and socioeconomic inequality

III: Single-country case studies

7. Trump's America

8. Nigel Farage, UKIP and Brexit

9. Marine le Pen and the French National Front

10. Viktor Orban, Fidesz and Hungarian walls

11. Chavez's Venezuela

IV: Consequences

12. Populist contagion: The impact on party systems

13. For elections and liberal democracy

V: Conclusions

14. The challenge of populist authoritarianism

Endnotes and Technical Appendices


[i] See, for example, overviews of the literature in Hans-Georg Betz. 1994. Radical Rightwing Populism in Western Europe. New York: St Martin’s Press; Piero Ignazi. 2003. Extreme right parties in Western Europe. New York: Oxford University Press; Herbert Kitschelt with Anthony J. McGann. 1995. The Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan; Pippa Norris. 2005. Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market. New York: Cambridge University Press; Cas Mudde. 2007. Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe. NY: Cambridge University Press; Ruth Wodak, Majid KhosraviNik and Brigitte Mral.  Eds. 2013. Right-Wing Populism in Europe. London: Bloomsbury; Carlos de la Torre. Ed. 2015. The Promise and Perils of Populism: Global Perspectives. Lexington, KT: University of Kentucky Press; Matt Golder. 2016. ‘Far Right Parties in Europe.’ Annual Review of Political Science19:477-97.

[ii] Cas Mudde. 2013. ‘Three decades of populist radical right parties in Western Europe: So what?’ European Journal of Political Research 52: 1-19;  Cas Mudde. 2014. ‘Fighting the system? Populist radical right parties and party system change.’ Party Politics. 20(2): 217-226.

[iii] S.L. De Lange 2012 ‘New alliances: why mainstream parties govern with radical right-wing populist parties.’ Political Studies 60: 899–918

[iii] Calculated from Holger Döring and Philip Manow. 2016. Parliaments and governments database (ParlGov) ‘Elections’ dataset: