The threat to democracy from the rise of populist parties

September 21st, 2023 by Roger Darlington

Almost one-third of Europeans now vote for populist, far-right or far-left parties, research shows, with wide support for anti-establishment politics surging across the continent in an increasingly problematic challenge to the mainstream.

Analysis by more than 100 political scientists across 31 countries found that in national elections last year a record 32% of European voters cast their ballots for anti-establishment parties, compared with 20% in the early 2000s and 12% in the early 1990s.

The research, led by Matthijs Rooduijn, a political scientist at the University of Amsterdam, and shared exclusively with the Guardian, also found that about half of anti-establishment voters support far-right parties – and this is the vote share that is increasing most rapidly.

“There’s fluctuation, but the underlying trend is the numbers keep rising,” Rooduijn said. “Mainstream parties are losing votes; anti-establishment parties are gaining. It matters, because many studies now show that when populists secure power, or influence over power, the quality of liberal democracy declines.”