Lowered Expectations and Shifting Standards? – Two Survey Experiments exploring Neo-populist Political Scandals and the Perceived Trustworthiness of Politicians

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Abstract

The recent wave of electoral success for right- wing populists has coincided with an increase in political scandals as well as a new, neo- populist type, of scandals. Thus, it has been argued that the public might have become increasingly numb to scandals and that scandalous behaviour by populist politicians is often neglected as part of their ‘typical’ behavior. In this article, we explore how involvement in neo- populist scandals affects the public’s trust in individual politicians and whether this effect is moderated by the politician’s party affiliation – both populist and non- populist – and party preferences of citizens judging a scandal. We also compare the effects with two other types of traditional scandals, involving financial misconduct or an extra- marital affair. Two factorial vignette survey experiments (N = 1,000 and 1,577) were carried out in 2017 and 2019 to explore whether and how neo- populist scandals affect trust in politicians under varying circumstances. The key findings are that neo- populist scandals clearly have negative effects on trust for a scandalous politician but the judgement of scandals are subject to strong partisanship effects. Thus, supporters of a populist party do not see a scandalous behaviour by a populist politician as harmful for their trust in that politician. This effect is not evident among supporters of a traditional party when ‘their’ politician is involved in a scandal. Populist supporters also tend not to see scandals in general as especially harmful to their trust in politicians, regardless of type of scandal nor affiliation of a scandalous politician.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalScandinavian Political Studies
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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