Populism and Political Knowledge: The United States in Comparative Perspective

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Populism and Political Knowledge: The United States in Comparative Perspective


  • Henry Milner Chair in Electoral Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Montreal, Canada


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Abstract:  This article addresses the link between political knowledge and populist attitudes in the United States (US) in comparative perspective. At the beginning of the new decade, populism in the US is associated with support for the Republican party and Donald Trump in particular, and that is how I address it here. Using secondary data from a number of related studies, we find that, overall, support for Trump is not only negatively related to political knowledge, but also to other factors that make his supporters unaware of their being misinformed. This is because, more than for others, partisan cues serve them as a basis for their factual beliefs about political actors and events and assessments of the beliefs of others. While political knowledge has long been comparatively low in the US, as I show in the early part of the article, the relationship between misinformation and populism (i.e., support for Trump) is seen as a new and especially worrisome element. In the concluding section I address what, if anything, could be done to address this situation.

Keywords:  Donald Trump; political knowledge; political misinformation; populism; tribalism; United States

Published:   5 March 2020


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v8i1.2560


© Henry Milner. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.