New Project: Populism and Civic Engagement – a fine-grained, dynamic, context-sensitive and forward-looking response to the negative impacts of populist movements (PaCE)

 

With the rise of populist parties and movements across Europe and with the outcome of the Brexit referendum in 2016, the academic research on populism gained remarkable attention. The rise and growth of parties and movements that claim to speak and act in the name of the "ordinary people" and challenge and attack the liberal elite as being corrupt could be observed in most parts of Europe. This set of idea surrounding this antagonism between people and elite can be summarized under the term "populism", which quickly became a frequently used buzzword in both media and academics.

The EU Horizon 2020 project "Populism and Civic Engagement" (PaCE) aims at understanding and addressing causes, characteristics and consequences of the current rise of populist parties and movements in Europe, to develop instruments to tackle the negative tendencies of rising populism. The project involves nine partners from all across Europe and runs from February 2019 until January 2022. Its objectives are (1) to trace the historical growth and political consequences of illiberal, nativist and anti-democratic populist parties for the European Union (EU) project and democracy, (2) to study the general and specific causes for these three modes of populism in European democracies, distinguishing between demand and supply side as well as internal and external causes, (3) to study, propose and test policy-oriented responses to each of the three modes of populism, (4) to identify strategies to strengthen democratic values and practices taking into account the role of traditional and social media as well as public opinion and (5) to engage with stakeholders, especially groups underrepresented in public affairs, such as younger citizens and include schools and local communities in order to apply particular findings of the project.

Therefore, in a first step, the type, growth and consequences of the different populist parties in Europe are being investigated in general as well as linked to their particular contexts and characteristics. From there, causes for the appearance and growth of populist parties are being established and the challenges for liberal democracy will be identified. Here, it has to be differentiated between internal and external causes of the rise and growth of populist parties and attitudes and it has to be accounted for the particular structures of the demand and the supply side. This will be analysed using statistical and simulation approaches. After having built a solid associative framework, policy-oriented responses to different forms of populism are being proposed and tested. Also, risk-analyses for the particular responses will be run applying an agent-based simulation of political processes that will include political attitudes and contextual factors in order to test the causes and the proposed responses to populism. The project applies modern methods from computational social sciences, such as agent-based policy simulation to be able to find and address variation in context and type of populism.

In addition to the analytical work and throughout the project, the partners will directly engage with citizens and policy actors, especially with groups that are underrepresented in public affairs, such as younger citizens in order to establish a link to educators and other practitioners to take the research forward into practice and therefore increasing the impact of PaCE’s outputs and simultaneously evaluate them in the form of practical application. A further aim of integrating citizens and policy actors into the work of the project is to help strengthening democratic values and practices, especially in the context of schools. For policy-makers, the output of the project in the form of policy recommendations can be helpful, as risk factors related to populism will be identified and are to be mitigated in the arena of politics, which can in turn lead to a more stable, inclusive and resilient society.

List of participants:

  • Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) (Coordinator) - United Kingdom
  • City of Reykjavik (RVK) - Iceland
  • The Centre for Liberal Strategic Foundation (CLS) - Bulgaria
  • The Paris-Lodron University (PLU) - Austria
  • The Technical University of Dresden (TUD) - Germany
  • The Democratic Society (DS) - Belgium
  • Trilateral Research (TRI) - Ireland
  • University of Helsinki (UH) - Finland
  • Citizens Foundation (CF) - Iceland 

Members of the Salzburg team:

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