Support for populist beliefs in Europe has fallen markedly over the past year,
The YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project, a survey of about 26,000 people in 25 countries
“You could think of the virus like a volcano,” said Matthijs Rooduijn, a political sociologist at the University of Amsterdam and expert on populism. “It has hit populism hard, but it will leave behind fertile ground for the future.”
Populism, which frames politics as a battle between ordinary people and corrupt elites, has grown rapidly as a political force, with support for populist parties in national elections across Europe surging from 7% to more than 25% in 20 years.
Populist leaders mainly on the far right – Italy’s Matteo Salvini, France’s Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orbán in Hungary or Sweden’s Jimmie Åkesson – have surged and populist parties have entered government in nearly a dozen European countries.
“Things are already changing quite rapidly with the second wave,” Rooduijn said. “Conspiracy theories are rising; populations are becoming increasingly polarised over the measures governments are taking.
Anti-immigration sentiment remained most consistently strong in Sweden, where 65% of respondents said fewer immigrants should be allowed into the country in future, up from 58% last year. The figures were similar in Italy, where 64% of those surveyed agreed immigration should be cut, against 53% last year.
The country with by far the strongest anti-immigration feelings was Greece, included in the survey for the first time in 2020. Nearly four out of every five respondents wanted immigration reduced, with 62% saying it should be reduced by “a lot”.