Do Populists Support Populism? An Examination Through an Online Survey Following the 2017 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Election.
American Political Science Association 2018 Annual Meeting, Forthcoming
47 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2018
Date Written: August 12, 2018
Research Question: This study explores who supports populist politicians and whether those supporters hold populistic attitudes. The literature about populism has achieved remarkable progress in recent decades. The research on its demand side has so far revealed the traits such as gender, social class, ideological position, and political orientation that prompt voters to support populist parties. However, with notable exceptions, such as Akkerman et al. (2014) and Schulz et al. (2017), few studies on populism have directly measured the degree of populism among supporters of populist parties. In addition, these exceptional works using an individual populism scale narrowly focus upon a specific country in Western Europe. Thus no study has verified its applicability to non-European countries, such as those in East Asia. To overcome these shortcomings, this study measures populist attitudes in Japan. Specifically, it assesses the extent to which a similar populism scale that applies to a nation in Western Europe can also be adapted to Japanese citizens. Additionally, this study confirms whether a respondent with populist attitudes votes for a populist party politician. Data: To answer these questions, we conducted an online survey of 1500 Tokyo residents after the 2017 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, in which a prominent populist governor (Yuriko Koike) launched a new political party “Tomin First no Kai,” or the Tokyoites First Party, and won the election by a landslide, defeating the then largest party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and others. We took this opportunity to assess the characteristics of the supporters for a populist party in Japan. The survey used an assignment method, which utilized each respondent’s electoral participation (abstention or not) and vote choice (Tomin First, LDP, Komei, Communist, and others) as its assignment category and collected survey responses until the number of each type of respondents reached the ratio that each category achieved in the actual election.
Method: We emulated previous works’ empirical approaches. We adjusted Akkerman et al.’s (2014) and Schultz et al.’s (2017) question items to measure populist attitudes in the Japanese political context, and then asked the survey respondents these questions. We, in turn, conducted a principal component analysis to generate a populism scale through the survey responses, and then examined the correlation between respondents’ populist attitudes and their vote choice.
Results: Our online survey reveals that the supporters for the Tomin First party lacked quintessential elements of populism. The principal component analysis of the questions measuring the degree of populism extracted five components—“demand for popular sovereignty,” “homogeneity,” “anti-elitism,” “pluralism,” and “elitism”—as Akkerman et al.’s (2014) and Schultz et al.’s (2017) analyses did. Then, we calculated the average degree of each component across partisan categories. Although those respondents who voted for Tomin First have somewhat strong anti-elitism, we found that they have no other populist traits distinguishable from average respondents with statistical significance. These results demonstrate that populist party backers lack crucial populist elements, such as anti-pluralism and Manichean friend-enemy distinction in Japan.
Keywords: Populism, Ideational Approach, Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Election, Tokyoites First Party, Yuriko Koike
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