Populism, Populist or Personality? What is actually gaining in support and how to test it

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Conference Proceeding
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Surprise election results around the world - surprising largely due to polls being unable to accurately grasp the mood of the electorate - are fuelling debates such as the supposed rise of populist movements. But what exactly is it that is on the rise? Is it populism – the movement intractably associated with right wing nationalism, hatred and bigotry? Is it populist campaigning, a framing tactic of posing the candidate standing as one with the ordinary people, in opposition to a (stylised) undemocratic and self-serving elite, irrespective of ideology or partisan leaning? Or is it the rise of the personality or celebrity candidate, who appeals personally to voters more than and differently to party or ideology or any message? Election results are not always clear, as a particular candidate may attract voters for all these or other reasons, so trying to interpret meaning from vote data is ambiguous at best. To truly know what is on the rise, we must determine vote causality. This paper will look at the difference between Populism, Populist campaigns, and Personality candidates, examine whether there has been a rise by comparing 2013 and 2016 federal election Senate results, and discuss the best methodological approaches for testing what is driving voters towards these political forces.
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