January 17, 2018
By Alexander Fritz Englund
Populism is on the rise, especially in Europe. Determining the causes is of crucial political importance. Some claim that “neoliberal” policies such as deregulation and free trade have contributed to the populist tide. This briefing conducts a statistical analysis of 31 European countries over a 34-year period. Neoliberalism is proxied by the Economic Freedom of the World index and the data source for populism is the Timbro Authoritarian Populism Index. The data does not support the hypothesis that economic freedom leads to increased support for populist parties. If anything, there is a negative relationship between the two variables, although mostly not statistically significant. Expanding the size of the public sector and rolling back globalisation as policy measures against populism should therefore be expected to be ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.