The survey revealed that 22 percent of the world population is populist, jumping as high as 40 percent in countries with recent political upheaval such as Brazil and Ukraine. It is alarmist to say that a modern spike in populism will bring on the widespread global destruction wrought by the populists of the middle 20th century, however, it does present a threat which needs to be properly addressed by mainstream politicians.
While populism may be poorly understood, a common theme among populist movements is a hollow platform to “tell the people what they want to hear.” Populism as a political ideology does not rest on solid convictions, and this works precisely to its benefit. Since the 1990s, conventional wisdom has been that when it comes to what people want from government, it is, as the political strategist James Carville famously said during the 1992 presidential election, “the economy, stupid.”
Governments which successfully invigorate economic growth should expect to win reelection and stave off potential populist insurgencies. Why then has the past decade, which has seen unprecedented economic growth after the recession, been a time during which a populist wave is sweeping the world? Populism plays to the emotions of ordinary people. Populists promise nothing more than to make people happy or restore former national glory, as with President Trump and President Erdogan.