Democratic Strain and Populist Fervor in India, America and Beyond

Manuscript in Preparation

By Sakeef M. Karim and Alessandro Giuseppe Drago


In the modern world, why is populism more common in some national contexts than in others? In the present article, we craft an explanation that shines a spotlight on the role of democratic strain, or the distance between formal and substantive (deep) democracy. To explore the relationship between strain and populism, we use a nested analysis that integrates quantitative and qualitative approaches to macro-comparative research. With the use of sequence analysis, regression analysis, and a structured historical comparison of India and the United States, we arrive at the following conclusions: as democratic strain rises, individuals around the world lose confidence in representative political institutions. Yet, the association between strain and party-level populism is moderated by a country’s experience of democratization: this association is positive in countries with democratic legacies (like the United States), non-existent in countries with non-democratic legacies, and negative in countries with hybrid legacies (like India). Our comparison of India and the U.S. confirms our statistical findings and leads us to theorize how democratic legacies create distinct political fields that incentivize different forms of restorative politics.

Posted on:
August 1, 2021
1 minute read, 179 words
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