“Is Populism “A thing” in the US?” by Professor Christopher Parker

Cecil Gibb Seminar Series 2019
“Is Populism “A thing” in the US?” by Professor Christopher Parker
Department of Political Science, University of Washington
Seminar co-sponsored by the Research School of Psychology Cecil Gibb Seminar Series and Coral Bell School Horizons Seminar Series

As with Europe, populism has been offered as an explanation for the lurch to the right in American politics.  Among other things, it is believed to be responsible for the election of Donald Trump.  In this paper, we question whether or not populism is really a coherent belief system among the masses in the United States.  We do so by drawing on four original, nationally representative surveys (N>5000) conducted in the US across four time points spanning from prior to the 2016 elections to the aftermath of the 2018 elections.  We use a variety of items designed to tap into the theorized dimensions of populism and contrast and compare these to competing explanations.  Furthermore, we use measurement models to assess the extent to which populist attitudes are consistent with the theory in the mass public, after which we estimate a series of invariance tests by race, gender, class and partisanship to guage whether these can be thought of representing the same concepts.  Preliminary results indicate that the organisation of populist attitudes is not consistent with theoretical predications and populist attitudes are not invariant across important societal groups.  We discuss these findings in the list of the ongoing theoretical and measurement discussions about the nature of populist attitudes.

Christopher Sebastian Parker is a professor in the department of political science at the University of Washington.  A graduate of UCLA and the University of Chicago, Parker also served in the United States Navy.  He is the author of Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America (Princeton University Press, 2013), and Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle Against White Supremacy in the Postwar South (Princeton University Press, 2009). He resides in Seattle.

Tuesday September 17, 4:00 – 5:00pm

Peter Baume Building 42A, Room 2.01

Followed by drinks and nibbles in the Research School of Psychology tea room, Building 39