Varieties of Populism: An Analysis of the Programmatic Character of Six European Parties

David Hollanders, J.B. de Raadt, A.P.M. Krouwel

Research output: Working paper / PreprintWorking paperAcademic

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In this paper we analyse the extent to which party programmes reflect the populist type of democracy-critique and propose a classification of different types of populism. We define populism as a political ideology critical of representative democracy but not necessarily anti- democratic, claiming that populism is more than mere political tactics or style of political communication. Populism is operationalised into three core dimensions: populists combine an appeal to ʻthe peopleʼ with anti-establishment critique and a call for a more direct link between political leaders and citizens. We analyse party programmes of six parties that are often labelled populist: the Schweizerische Volkspartei (Switzerland), the Front National (France), Lijst Pim Fortuyn (the Netherlands), Vlaams Blok (Belgium), Die Republikaner (Germany) and the Freiheitliche Partei Österreich (Austria). Our analysis shows that substantial programmatic differences exist between these parties and we therefore distinguish between several varieties of populism, depending on the way ʻthe peopleʼ are defined, the character of anti-establishment statements and the type of proposals for creating a direct link between citizens and government. Hence we reject the undifferentiated and dichotomous use of the concept populism and suggest four dimensions along which populist parties can be classified.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherWorking Papers Political Science Vrije Universiteit
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)1569-3546
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2004

Publication series

NameWorking Papers Political Science
PublisherVrije Universiteit
ISSN (Electronic)1569-3546


  • Populism
  • Democracy
  • Political parties
  • political communication
  • Quantitative analysis


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