Economic crisis and the variety of populist response: evidence from Greece, Portugal and Spain

Marco Lisi, Iván Llamazares, Myrto Tsakatika

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36 Citations (Scopus)


Greece, Portugal and Spain are among the countries worst hit by the 2008 Great Recession, followed by significant electoral and political turmoil. However, one of the dimensions in which they differ is the presence and varieties of populism in parties’ political proposals. Drawing on holistic coding of party manifestos, we assess the varying presence of populist rhetoric in mainstream and challenger parties before and after the 2008 economic downturn. Our empirical findings show that populism is much higher in Greece compared to Spain and Portugal. We do not find a significant impact of the crisis as the degree of populism remains rather stable in Greece and Portugal, while it increases in Spain, mainly due to the rise of new populist forces. The study confirms that populist rhetoric is a strategy adopted mainly by challenger and ideologically radical parties. In addition, inclusionary populism is the predominant flavour of populist parties in new Southern Europe, although exclusionary populism is present to a lesser extent in the Greek case. We contend that the interaction between the national context–namely the ideological legacy of parties and the main dimensions of competition–and the strategic options of party leadership is crucial for explaining cross-country variation in the intensity of populism and the specific issues that characterise populist discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1284-1309
Number of pages24
JournalWest European Politics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • economic crisis
  • holistic grading
  • inclusionary populism
  • party manifesto
  • Populism
  • Southern Europe


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