Márton Bene & Zsolt Boda (2023) A safety net against populism? An investigation of the interaction effect of political efficacy and democratic capacities on populist attitudes, Political Research, An ECPR Journal, Volume 5, 2023 - Issue 1 Exchange, 5:1, DOI: 10.1080/2474736X.2023.2220385
The paper interprets populism as a symptom of a mismatch between how the democratic polity operates and how citizens conceive their own aspirations, needs and identities vis-à-vis the polity. However, democracy requests certain attitudes and skills from citizens: political engagement, a reflective attitude, scrutiny of the power holders and balancing trust-based cooperation with critical reactions towards political authorities. In line with this, we investigate how external and internal political efficacy are associated with populist attitudes in the case of people who have and who do not have certain democratic capacities. Our findings drawing upon an original survey covering 15 European countries show that higher internal political efficacy is associated with more populist attitudes in the case of people with incomplete democratic capacities, but complete democratic capacities yield a ‘safety net’ against this effect. However, the negative relationship between external political efficacy and populist attitudes does not depend on these capacities: stronger dissatisfaction with the responsiveness of political elites leads to more populist attitudes irrespective of people’s democratic background. Nonetheless, our findings imply that a stronger emphasis on certain democratic practices and values in political socialization or civic education could prevent stronger political confidence would turn into populist views about politics.