In Western Europe, populist parties and movements have disrupted the region's political landscape by making significant gains at the ballot box - from the Brexit referendum to national elections in Italy. The anti-establishment sentiments helping to fuel the populist wave can be found on the left, center and right of the ideological spectrum, as a Pew Research Center survey highlights. People who hold these populist views are more frustrated with traditional institutions, such as their national parliament and the European Union, than are their mainstream counterparts. They are also more concerned about the economy and anxious about the impact of immigrants on their society.
This dissatisfaction may in part be why they are more favorable toward populist parties; still, regardless of populist sentiments, people tend to favor parties that reflect their own ideological orientation. With regard to policy, too, ideology continues to matter. Left-right differences carry more weight than populist sympathies when it comes to how people view the government's involvement in the economy, as well as the rights of gays and lesbians and women's role in society.
These are among the findings of an in-depth Pew Research Center public opinion study that maps the political space in eight Western European countries - Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom - based on a survey of 16,114 adults conducted from Oct. 30 to Dec. 20, 2017. Together, these eight European Union (EU) member states account for roughly 70% of the EU population and 75% of the EU economy.1 The study's purpose is to evaluate how the intersection of ideology and populist views within and across these publics shapes attitudes about policies, institutions, political parties and values.