Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Populism All the Way Down: How Times of Uncertainty Lead to the Rise of Populist Identities in Liberal Democracies

Publication Date

Spring 2022


Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, College of


Political Science, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Dr. Nathan Griffith

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


In the past decades, liberal democracies have had unique struggles with political instability. This paper seeks to understand why these times of uncertainty in liberal democracies cause an increase in populism. Theories around political identity and populism provide that throughout these unpredictable times, political structures are seen as less reliable for a sense of stability. A threatened populace may pursue a solution that gives “the people” more perceived political control. As a reaction to uncertainty, security is found in recentering into group identity. With stronger attachments being built into a group identity, there is an overall increase in conflict between groups and political structures, thus creating an environment that nurtures populism. This paper identifies the structures of centralized government in liberal democracies and levels of political instability as independent variables before looking at the level of trust in those structures and the level of group mobilization as the dependent variable.

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