Graduate Program

Political Science

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion

Fall 2021

Thesis Director

Paul Janssen Danyi

Thesis Committee Member

Melinda A. Mueller

Thesis Committee Member

Ryan P. Burge


Populism has experienced a global resurgence. Yet at the individual level, little empirical research has been conducted to validate theories surrounding this phenomenon, including claims that anger is necessary to trigger populist sentiment and that contemporary populists have a strongly negative perception of society. I conduct a novel survey experiment on US adults (n = 488) that induces anger among various groups and measures populist sentiment as well as opinions on domestic society and the global commons. I perform this examination by first comparing control and treatment groups, ascertaining anger’s impact on populist sentiment while accounting for preexisting anger and populism. I then compare the opinions of right-wing populists, left-wing populists, and individuals that express little-to-no populist sentiment across a wide range of topics relevant to domestic and international politics. Ultimately, I find that anger is not a necessary cause of populism, and that inducing anger does not consistently reinforce a populist mindset. While the variety of populism causes differences of opinion on certain issues, left-wing and right-wing populists agree on several political subjects. Likewise, differences in opinion between populists and non-populists are often significant but fall short of binary opposition. This holds large implications for the future of domestic politics and international relations alike.

Thesis Data.csv (185 kB)
Dataset of anonymous survey experiment participants used to conduct quantitative analysis on the causes and effects of populism.