What explains the recent rise of populism in Europe? We argue that economic shocks benefit populists when foreign interests influence establishment politicians and lead voters to reject the establishment response. Using a difference-in-differences design with European Social Survey data, we test this theory by comparing countries granted implicitly or explicitly conditional loans from the EU and IMF to other countries, before and after the European sovereign debt crisis. Since recent studies suggest austerity impacted women more, we also explore heterogeneity in treatment effects by gender. Supporting our theory, we find conditionality reduced institutional trust and increased populist support. Conditionality did not, however, lead to larger declines in trust or greater increases in populist support for women than for men. These results suggest that, though economic theories of voting do explain part of the recent rise in populism, men and women are not equally persuaded by economic reasons to support populists.
Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 2, Issue 3 Special Issue - The Political Economy of Populism, Part I
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