The Cultural Origins of Populism

42 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2022 Last revised: 17 Mar 2022

See all articles by Yotam Margalit

Yotam Margalit

Tel Aviv University

Shir Raviv

Columbia University

Omer Solodoch

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Date Written: January 5, 2022


The electoral success of right-wing populist parties is often attributed to disaffection among certain voters. But while economic explanations for this disaffection are theoretically clear and quantifiable, explanations centered on cultural factors offer vaguer accounts that are harder to evaluate empirically. We address this problem by theoretically distinguishing between five different “storylines” about the cultural origins of populism, and then test them using extensive data from Europe and the United States. Our analysis indicates that concerns about ethno-cultural change induced by immigration are central to understanding the populist vote; so, but to a lesser extent, is rural resentment and status anxiety. In contrast, explanations centered on communal disintegration or an intergenerational values divide are pertinent in only specific cases. The analysis helps disentangle the cultural forces associated with the rise of populism and highlights the heterogeneous coalitions that form the populist base across different countries.

Keywords: Right-wing populism, Cultural explanations, Voting behavior

Suggested Citation

Margalit, Yotam and Raviv, Shir and Solodoch, Omer, The Cultural Origins of Populism (January 5, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Yotam Margalit

Tel Aviv University ( email )

Tel Aviv


Shir Raviv (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

Northwest Corner, 550 W 120th St
New York City, NY 10027
United States

Omer Solodoch

Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( email )

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905

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