Populism, Political Regimes, and COVID-19 Deaths

33 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2021 Last revised: 17 Sep 2021

See all articles by Gabriel Cepaluni

Gabriel Cepaluni

São Paulo State University (UNESP)

Michael Dorsch

Central European University (CEU)

Semir Dzebo

Central European University (CEU)

Date Written: March 26, 2021


Previous research has shown that more democratic countries suffered greater COVID-19 deaths per capita and implemented policy measures that were less effective at reducing deaths than less democratic countries in the early stages of the pandemic (Cepaluni et al. 2020, Cheibub et al. 2020). But to what extent is this "autocratic advantage" driven by populist governments in democracies? This chapter presents new evidence that the documented effect is not driven by the subset of democracies that have populist governments. While across the entire sample, populism is associated with a greater COVID-19 death toll per capita, the deleterious effect of populism is weaker in relatively more democratic states. We argue that weaker checks and balances in more authoritarian political institutions explain the differential effect. Moreover, when examining characteristics of populism, we document that left-wing populism and anti-elite populism has been more damaging in less democratic states. Our study pursues a series of statistical analyses, employing a battery of controls that is common in this literature and a sensitivity analysis showing that our findings are robust and most likely causal.

Note: Funding Statement: None.

Declaration of Interests: None.

Keywords: Populism, political regimes, COVID-19

Suggested Citation

Cepaluni, Gabriel and Dorsch, Michael and Dzebo, Semir, Populism, Political Regimes, and COVID-19 Deaths (March 26, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3816398 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3816398

Gabriel Cepaluni

São Paulo State University (UNESP) ( email )

Av. Eufrásia Monteiro Petráglia, 900
Jd. Dr. Antonio Petráglia
Franca, Sao Paulo 14409-160

Michael Dorsch (Contact Author)

Central European University (CEU) ( email )

Quellenstrasse 51
Vienna, 1100

Semir Dzebo

Central European University (CEU) ( email )

Nador utca 9
Budapest, H-1051

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