The relationship between support for populist parties and a government’s COVID-19 response. Case studies of the Netherlands and Italy

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Posthhoorn, Iris
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Populism has been on the rise for several decades. Its causes are complex and its effect on democracy can be detrimental. In the past year, COVID-19 has disrupted public life. Because of the profound effect populism and COVID-19 both have on society, it is important to understand the relationship between the two. This thesis examines whether there is a link between the response of a populist and non-populist government to COVID-19 and support for populist parties. To this end, a comparative analysis between the cases of the Netherlands and Italy is conducted. The analysis focuses on the stringency of the COVID-19 measures, public support for populist parties and support for the COVID-19 restrictions between 1 January 2020 and 1 April 2021. No direct link between the government response to COVID-19 and change in support for populist parties could be established based on the examined data. However, it is not unlikely that the COVID-19 restrictions might have an indirect effect on populist support since factors such as technocracy, political trust and external efficacy can influence the attitudes of citizens towards the COVID-19 measures, as well as populist support. Keywords: populism, populist support, COVID-19 crisis, COVID-19 responses, the Netherlands, Italy
Second semester University: University of Ljubljana
populism, COVID-19 pandemic, Italy, The Netherlands