European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

The Rise and Fall of Populism and Extremism

Project description

Exploring the personal factors driving populism

Populism has always been a feature across Europe’s political spectrum. The big question is about the factors serving as the driving force behind populism. The EU-funded EXTREME project will explore whether people’s political decisions are shaped by their personal experiences, information environment and their interaction with aggregate economic shocks. Specifically, it will focus on the factors leading to the voting for populist UKIP and Brexit. It will also study the resistance to the Nazi regime during the Second World War. For this, the research team will measure resistance by checking a self-collected data set on treason cases and data on bombing and exposure to foreign propaganda. The project will also explore the personal factors that influenced the election of Donald Trump in the 2016 United States election.


In the recent years in advanced democracies there has been a wave of electoral successes of populist politicians supporting extreme messages. Is populism caused by negative economic shocks? If so, what are the mechanisms? What explains heterogeneity in responses to such shocks? In this project, I will test empirically if personal experiences, information environment, and their interaction with aggregate economic shocks shape people’s political decisions. The project consists of three parts.

First, I will study how personal employment histories, potentially affected by globalization and technological shocks, individual predispositions, and information environment influenced voting for Trump. I will use a unique database of more than 40 million resumes for the period 2010-2016, the largest available repository of resumes of job-seekers in the US, which was not previously used in academic research, and match it with zipcode-level economic and voting variables.

Second, I will study how negative social experiences during the formative years affect subsequent labor market outcomes, antisocial behavior, and the support of populist agenda. I will examine how corporal punishment in schools in UK affected subsequent educational attainment, employment, antisocial behavior, and voting for UKIP and Brexit. I will digitize archival records on regulations and practice of corporal punishment in different educational authorities in the UK during 1970-80s, combining it with contemporary outcomes.

Third, I will examine what makes people actively resist extremist regimes even when it is associated with high personal costs. I will study a historical example of resistance to Nazi regime in Germany during the WWII, which provides unique methodological opportunity to study determinants of resistance to extremism in a high stake environment. I will use a self-collected dataset on treason cases to measure resistance, combining it with data on bombing and exposure to foreign propaganda.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 467 736,00
08002 Barcelona

See on map

Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 467 736,00

Beneficiaries (1)