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Lewandowsky, Marcel, and Michael Jankowski. “Sympathy for the devil? Voter support for illiberal politicians.” European Political Science Review 15, no. 1 (2023): 39-56.


Many democracies are witnessing the rise and continuing success of parties and politicians who oppose fundamental principles of liberal democracy. Recent research finds that voters support illiberal politicians, because they trade off policy congruence against attitudes toward liberal democracy. Other studies, however, suggest that authoritarian and populist voters might actually have a preference to vote for illiberal candidates. We argue that both factors interact: Authoritarian and populist voters are more willing to trade off policy representation against support for liberal democracy. To test this mechanism, we rely on a survey experiment conducted in Germany. The results clearly demonstrate that voters indeed trade off policy congruence against liberal democracy. Moreover, this effect is particularly strong for populist and authoritarian voters. Overall, the results have important implications for understanding when and which voters support or oppose liberal democracy.

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.