Is Populism Here To Stay?

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Populism is an increasingly global trend, with people choosing populist politicians as their leaders. In this July 16, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Populism has been on the rise across the western world over the last decade, culminating with the election of President Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum.

The rise of populism is evident in how many times the subject appeared in major news sites. In 1998, The Guardian published about 300 articles that included the terms “populism” or “populist”. By 2015, these terms were present in about 1,000 articles and doubled to almost 2,000 a year later.

Similarly, the proportion of voters in industrialized countries choosing anti-establishment candidates surged from about 7 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2017 according to an index compiled by the Bridgewater hedge fund.

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What does the future hold for populism?

The last time populism experienced such growth was during the economic depression in the 1930s. Looking at the last decade, the world economy has had steadily rising metrics.

Foreign-policy experts in Europe and the U.S. have mixed feelings as to whether an economic downturn that is widely expected would lead to an increase in populism, as was the case during the great depression.

Populist politicians seem to be on the rise in Europe and other parts of the world. Brazil, Italy, Hungary, and Sweden are examples of this.

But there is a pushback with the rise in anti-Trump candidates in the U.S. and the battle between Boris Johnson and the U.K. parliament over Brexit.

An Ipsos survey showed that 64 percent of respondents age 16 to 74 around the world prefer a “strong leader to take back their country from the rich and powerful”, while about half feel that their “country needs a strong leader willing to break the rules”.