Charisma, Leader Effects and Support for Right-Wing Populist Parties


Brug, Wouter van der and Mughan, Anthony (2007) Charisma, Leader Effects and Support for Right-Wing Populist Parties. Party Politics, 13 (1). pp. 29-51. ISSN 1354-0688

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Abstract:One of the ways in which support for right-wing populist parties is held to be distinctive from that for other kinds of political parties is that their leaders are alleged to be ‘charismatic’ figures who play a crucial role in the electoral success their parties have enjoyed. Focusing on three Dutch elections, this article tests the charismatic leadership hypothesis, asking whether leader effects are stronger for populist than for established parties and whether they are stronger for populist leaders who are widely held to be more rather than less charismatic. The results indicate that if, following Weber, charisma is seen as an intimate and direct bond between leaders and followers, there is in fact little support for the charismatic leadership hypothesis, at least in the context of leaders shaping electoral outcomes. While recognizing that charisma may manifest itself in other, perhaps indirect, ways, there would seem to us at the very least to be a need for the notion of charisma to be conceptualized more rigorously if it is to continue to be used as an explanation of right-wing populist party success.
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