Populism on the American Left: How Populist is the Sanders Electorate?
Since the 2016 US presidential elections, political commentators and academics have often attributed the rise of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to a general 'populist' wave affecting the country. While the two politicians are often juxtaposed with each other in terms of their alleged 'populism', there are grounds to question this characterisation for Bernie Sanders on the left. While others have articulated their doubts as to the level of populist attitudes in the Sanders movement, in our study, we move in the direction of analysing the political beliefs of Sanders' supporters. With the use of ANES survey data, our regression models demonstrate that while a small cohort of populist voters did support Sanders during the 2016 primary, they were much smaller in size than traditional left-wing groups that exhibited negative correlations with populist attitudes. When compared with other presidential candidates running in the 2016 primaries, the results demonstrate that those with populist attitudes were much more inclined to vote for the Republican candidate Donald Trump than the Bernie Sanders. Finally, when we run regressions on the disaggregated components of our index for populist attitudes, the results only demonstrate positive relationships with certain components of the populist worldview, such as anti-elitism, but not for others. Our results, thus, bring significant contributions to the study of populism in the United States by pointing primarily to a populist revolt from the right and less so on the left.