đź”’ Saffers have LOTS in common with Donald Trump supporters – populism study

EDINBURGH — Do you believe a small elite is secretly controlling the world? Do you believe vaccinations cause autism? Do you believe in alien space ships? Then, you are probably Brazilian or South African, or a Donald Trump supporter. That’s the message in a global survey that aims to understand why a disease like measles has suddenly spread rapidly after being under control for decades. And why anti-establishment politicians – such as the US president and new Ukranian president, comedian Volodymyr Zelensky – are getting voted in to the highest offices. Conspiracy theorists are likely to also be populists, the study finds. – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole

In the largest survey of its kind, the Guardian newspaper has uncovered suspicion of vaccines in a big part of world population. It has also discovered that South Africa, after Brazil, is the world’s most populist country.

“Populists across the world are significantly more likely to believe in conspiracy theories about vaccinations, global warming and the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” says the media outlet.

The YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project “sheds new light on a section of the world population that appears to have limited faith in scientific experts and representative democracy”.


Analysis of the survey, says the global media outlet, found the clearest tendency among people with strongly held populist attitudes was a belief in conspiracy theories that were contradicted by science or factual evidence.

“The research may go some way towards understanding the success of rightwing populists such as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, who have fuelled conspiracy theories, undermined efforts to address global warming and dismissed fact-based journalism as ‘fake news’.

“The survey findings may also prove useful to public health officials who are battling to contain outbreaks of measles around the world amid alarming rates of unvaccinated children,” it continues.

Unicef recently revealed that measles cases had risen 300% in the first three months of this year compared with the same time last year, the Guardian reports. In 2017, approximately 110,000 people died of the illness, most of them children. About 169m children under 10 worldwide are unvaccinated, the UN agency is quoted as saying.

“In the YouGov survey, people with strongly held populist views were on average almost twice as likely to believe that supposed harmful effects of vaccines were being deliberately hidden from the public. They were similarly more likely to believe that the US government knowingly helped the 9/11 terrorist attackers, and that manmade global warming was a hoax,” says the newspaper.

Two in five populists in the survey agreed that regardless of who was officially in charge of governments, “there is a single group of people who secretly control events and rule the world together”, continues the Guardian, compared with just under a quarter of the overall survey respondents.

“The survey – of more than 25,000 people across almost two dozen countries – is the largest study of its kind undertaken by YouGov, and covers parts of Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. In total, the surveyed countries represent 4.7bn people, or more than 60% of the world’s population.

“Brazil and South Africa had the highest percentage of populist respondents.”

One in four Americans belonged to the survey’s populist cohort, the study found. “This is a similar proportion to Poland, France and Spain, the three most populist European countries in the survey. Considerably less populist were Canada, the UK and Sweden, where fewer than 15% of people had strongly populist views, and Japan and Denmark, where populists constituted less than 10% of the population.”

Across all 19 nations that were analysed, the Guardian found people with strong populist views were also considerably more likely to subscribe to the view that their country’s political system was “broken” and in need of “total change”, and less trusting of national television news channels and broadsheet newspapers.

“Why, then, does such a large proportion of the population not believe the scientific evidence? The data shows that this doesn’t seem to have much to do with factors like education, as we might expect. Instead, it is driven by anger and suspicion towards elites and experts that has also resulted in increasing support for anti-establishment political parties across Europe and beyond,” says the Guardian.