Populism and its Moral Siblings

Anti-establishment populist parties and movements, both left and right, have become a force to be reckoned with in many European countries. From Syriza in Greece to the Front National in France, there is growing support for parties which offer an alternative vision from the mainstream parties.

This report offers a new way to analyse anti-establishment populist parties and movements: by looking at the underlying moral frames and attitudes of populist supporters through Moral Politics Theory based on the work of the US academic George Lakoff. By conducting Moral Politics Questionnaires with over 5,000 online supporters of populist parties across Europe, the respondents’ worldviews are gauged and examined in relationship to policy stances, family values and moral beliefs.

The research finds that the moral beliefs and attitudes of supporters of anti-establishment populist often have the same model of morality as supporters of mainstream parties, despite showing differences in rhetoric. Thus the question of whether conservative or progressive voters support a populist or mainstream party might depend on these moral beliefs are communicated. Populism and its Moral Siblings sets out new ways to understand and engage these voters.