The Psychology of Preferring Right-wing Populist Parties

Dr. Evelyn Bytzek

Right-wing populist parties are gaining ground in Europe, even in Germany although political scientists used to think that a right-wing populist party could not be successful in Germany due to the country’s history. However, the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD, Alternative for Germany) is now part of several state parliaments, the European parliament and even the German Bundestag (i.e., the federal parliament). Although explanations for preferring right-wing populist parties such as dissatisfaction with political elites, a lack of trust in politics or extremist views exist, there is not much research on the link between personality (such as such as openness to experience, agreeableness and social trust) and preferring right-wing populist parties. However, knowing about influences of personality on preferring right-wing populist parties might become crucial when exploring how to convince voters of these parties of the merits of pluralist democracy, international cooperation as well as diverse and open societies. The research question thus is: Do less open, less agreeable, less trusting voters have stronger preferences for right-wing populist parties? The proposed paper examines this relationship by making use of survey data from Germany conducted before the federal election 2017 and taking a close look on preferences for the AfD.