July 29, 2021

Europe, a nostalgic continent aimed at populism, reveals a study

Europe, a nostalgic continent aimed at populism, reveals a study

Two thirds of the citizens of the European Union declare themselves "nostalgic" and, therefore, susceptible to populist movements, according to a study presented today by the Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation at the Press Club in Brussels.

The report, entitled "The power of the past: how nostalgia modifies European public opinion", gathers the opinions of 10,000 citizens of the 28 member states on their particular view of the past and how this influences their current political preferences.

Italians are the ones who most appeal to a better past among the surveyed Europeans (77%), while Spaniards (64%) are in tune with the European average (67%) and countries such as France (65%) or Germany ( 61%).

According to the definition of the study itself, nostalgia helps to "deal with feelings of anxiety or insecurity", which makes it a mechanism of "internal stabilization" that allows facing convulsive periods or with numerous changes, such as the one that currently lives in Europe.

Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute and one of the speakers during the presentation of the study, affirms that nostalgia is "an essential part" of the rise of populism in European societies.

"No politician is providing credible arguments to develop a plan for the future, it is easier to talk about immigrants than about the challenges of the future," says Grabbe.

The researcher pointed to campaigns like "Make America Great Again", by US President Donald Trump, as an example of appealing to "a better past" and "reaction" to the loss of privileges.

Grabbe insisted on "mobilizing people from fear of hope" and focusing the political agenda on the main problems for the coming years in Europe, such as "technological transformation, climate change or demographic changes such as the aging of the population".

According to the study, the fight against terrorism (60%) and immigration control (51%) are the main problems for those who declare themselves nostalgic, that are mostly men (53%) who place themselves on the right of the spectrum Political (53%).

Isabel Hoffmann, one of the authors of the report, stressed that this and other research developed by the Bertelsmann Foundation show "fear as a polarizing force" and that the criticism of the political-economic system "has shifted to the right".

Along the same lines, Agata Gostynska, associate researcher at the Center for European Reform, points out that it is a "question of perceptions" and that, currently, it is "more effective to appeal to people's fears", as is the case with anti-immigration sentiment.

"In the United Kingdom, many of the voters in favor of leaving the EU lived in regions with few immigrants, voted not because they suffered it (the migratory wave), but because they feared it," Gostynska explained.

On the influence of Russia in the rise of populism in Europe, the experts said that it is "very difficult" to measure a strategy that is based more on "disavowing" the democratic process than on introducing new ideas.


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