Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


As right-wing populism has gained a stronger footing globally, so have the ideas that right-wing populists support. Developed democracies are exhibiting high levels of political distrust and anti-elite sentiment, which pose a serious threat to the health of democracy and existing political systems. While there are system-level trends that contribute to anti-elitism, there remain variations in individual anti-elite sentiment. Two broad schools of thought suggest explanations; one contending that the way an individual perceives and responds to their economic situation leads to anti-elite sentiment, and the other, that anti-elite sentiment has risen as a reactionary undercurrent to the “silent revolution” of the last half of the 20th Century. Using Round 7 of the European Social Survey (ESS), this research investigates a third approach which brings together insights of the cultural and economic explanations, the “left-behind” hypothesis. This study finds that those who perceive themselves as “left-behind” by economic and cultural trends express stronger anti-elite sentiments than even the poorest “losers of globalization,” or the most traditionally conservative.