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Photo: “Yellow vests protest3“, by Norbu Gyachung licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Vasilopoulos, Pavlos, and John T. Jost. “Psychological Similarities and Dissimilarities between Left-Wing and Right-Wing Populists: Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey in France.” Journal of Research in Personality (2020): 104004.


Research in political science has focused on definitions of populism, platforms of populist parties, and demographic characteristics of those who support populist parties. Yet little is known about the psychological characteristics of populist supporters and how they might differ as a function of left-right ideology. Using a measure of populist attitudes in general, we investigated the role of Big Five personality traits as well as authoritarianism, social dominance, and system justification in a nationally representative sample of French respondents. We observed meaningful variability in relations between psychological characteristics and the endorsement of populist attitudes as a function of left-right ideological orientation, as well as variability in the psychological predictors of support for Jean Luc Mélenchon (a left-wing populist) and Marine LePen (a right-wing populist). We conclude that left-wing and right-wing populists are not the same, psychologically speaking, and that the differences are consistent with the distinction between inclusionary and exclusionary forms of populism.

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.