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Countering Populist Authoritarians: Where their support comes from and how to reverse their success
Most people voting for populist authoritarians hold authoritarian political attitudes. It is not possible to identify the causes behind, and how to reverse, the increasing tendency of voters to support politicians and parties with authoritarian agendas without understanding why people develop and express these attitudes. Decades of research from the field of social psychology provides answers as to why people come to endorse these attitudes and how they are triggered to express them. However, this research has been either ignored or only partially used by political scientists leading the mainstream debate on populist authoritarians. Much of the mainstream political science research has focused on identifying the 'grievances' held by voters supporting populist authoritarian causes. To identify these grievances, academics have tried to infer them from socio-demographic profiles of voters or asked voters directly about the reasons behind their voting choices. But this has led to unresolved disagreements among scholars over the role played by factors such as economic shock, cultural changes, growing inequality or security threats. Political science researchers have also identified a number of other factors, such as education, gender, age, religiosity, presence in country of ethnic minorities and the urban-rural divide. But again, these factors seem to play conflicting roles in different countries. Other researchers have focused on the role played by factors such as the media environment and competition between political parties. However, an overarching and coherent explanation for the rise of populist authoritarians setting out how all these factors fit together seems to have escaped those running the mainstream debate. A minority of political science scholars have examined the connection between political attitudes and voting for populist authoritarians. Unfortunately, their research has concentrated on the role played by one particular psychological worldview ('right-wing authoritarianism'). However, social psychology research has clearly established that authoritarian political attitudes are rooted in two complementary worldviews that have different root causes and triggers. The second relevant worldview is known as 'social dominance orientation'. By focusing only on 'right wing authoritarianism' scholars have been left with sometimes promising but sometimes disappointing results. Furthermore, these scholars have concentrated on examining the strength of 'right wing authoritarianism' only as a predictor of support for populist authoritarian parties. Whereas there is a wealth of social pyschology scholarship that also explains how such worldviews come to be endorsed and how they are triggered, which would allow commentators to better understand the causes of, and elaborate solutions to reverse, the increasing success of populist authoritarians. This book explains how these background causes and other factors play a role in both shaping how likely voters are to endorse authoritarian political attitudes and how they are then triggered to act on them and vote in large numbers for populist authoritarian parties, politicians and causes. It offers an explanation for the rise of populist authoritarianism that places the elements identified by mainstream debate into a coherent narrative that also accomodates and accounts for apparent differences in findings between countries. After identifying what makes voters more likely to adopt authoritarian political attitudes and what triggers voters to express them, the book then offers some solutions as to how they can be countered. These solutions are mostly grounded in human rights standards which were elaborated after the second world war with the purpose of creating an environment where it would be impossible for authoritarianism to take root.