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Left Behind Voters, Anti-Elitism, and Popular Will (with B. Crutzen and O. Swank)

CIREQ-Concordia Seminar 2021-2022
Information Economics and Experiments virtual seminar series

joint with the Department of Economics, Concordia University

Organizers : Ming Li and Huan Xie (Concordia U.)

*  Virtual Seminar. Please contact one of the organizers for Zoom login information.


Résumé: Two common characteristics of populism are anti-elitism and favoring popular will over expertise. The recent successes of populists are often attributed to the common people, the majority of voters, being left behind by main-stream parties.  This paper shows that the two characteristics of populism are responses to the common people being left behind. We develop a model that highlights two forces behind electoral success: numbers and knowledge. Numbers give the common people an electoral advantage, knowledge the elite. We show that electoral competition may lead parties to cater to the elite’s interest, creating a left-behind majority. Next, we identify conditions under which a left-behind majority encourages entry by a party offering an anti-elite platform. Finally, we identify conditions under which parties follow the opinion of the common people when that group would benefit from parties relying on experts.

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