Published September 16, 2022
A center-right coalition in Sweden narrowly secured victory on Wednesday, anchored by a national populist party called the Sweden Democrats. This has unnerved many in the West, but it shouldn’t. It’s simply yet another example of how the refusal of elites to deal with the legitimate concerns of voters is fueling populist backlash.
National populism, a term coined by British political scientists Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin, is today found in virtually every Western nation. Its adherents tend to come from similar social classes — disproportionally middle-aged workers without high levels of formal education. They tilt male but include large numbers of demographically similar women. They swing to the left on economics, supporting strong welfare states, and to the right on culture. They are fearful of social and economic change that affects their standard of living and social status, and they organize to resist that change.
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.