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PEW Research Centre : Populist movements have gained ground in many Western European countries, from the United Kingdom’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union to Italy’s formation of a populist government this spring. A new Pew Research Center report explores the attitudes that underlie some of these movements, based on interviews with more than 16,000 adults in eight Western European nations.

In the surveyed countries – Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK – people with populist views (as measured by two questions on anti-establishment attitudes) are more likely than those with mainstream views to distrust traditional institutions, such as the national parliament and the news media. They are also more likely to be frustrated with the economy and to hold negative views toward immigrants. Still, populist sympathies play less of a role in many aspects of European politics than traditional left-right divides do. People in Western Europe, for example, still tend to back political parties that reflect their own ideological preferences.

This paper identifies the following aspects: 

Populist attitudes are not confined to one particular end of the ideological spectrum in Western Europe – they exist on the left, center and right.

People with populist views are generally much more dissatisfied with traditional institutions than people with mainstream views.

While populist attitudes span the ideological spectrum, populist political parties are relatively unpopular in Western Europe

Western Europeans are divided over the impact of immigration on their nation’s culture, security and economy, particularly along ideological lines.

Traditional left-right divisions play a bigger role than populist attitudes when it comes to views of the government’s role in ensuring a decent standard of living.

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