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Photo: “Viktor Orbán adressing the House of Commons – 2015.09.21 (1)“, by Elekes Andor, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Brug, Wouter van der, Sebastian Popa, Sara B. Hobolt, and Herman Schmitt. “Democratic Support, Populism, and the Incumbency Effect.” Journal of Democracy 32, no. 4 (October 2021): 131–45.


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.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.