Populist movements are gaining more and more traction all over the world. Ukraine is not an exception: our research shows that on average 84% of Ukrainians support populist policies, while 59% not only support populist policies but also view them as realistic. Our research shows that economically disadvantaged groups (people who lack opportunities in education, employment, etc.) are more likely to support such policies. To a lesser extent, support of populism is also correlated with a lack of critical thinking in everyday life. On the other hand, differences in populism support between different age groups or regions are not statistically significant.
Is reducing populism support possible? Our research shows that it is. Giving the individual a choice between two policies leads to a significant decrease in populism support: on average from 84% to 54%. Appealing to one’s personal benefit is especially effective. On the other hand, in some issues, the support of populism remains unchanged, regardless of the arguments used. One such example is price controls. Our results show that those who support price controls do not change their minds when presented with the arguments against it. In other cases, it is much easier to change respondents’ opinions: the results show that the majority of respondents have changed their minds about at least three out of eight populist policies. Furthermore, we do not observe major differences between those who were convinced by arguments and those who were not.
In order to reduce populism support among Ukrainians, we recommend:
- Paying special attention to economically disadvantaged groups.
- Offering alternatives to populist policies.
- Tailoring arguments to each target audience; emphasizing the harm of populism for each particular audience, rather than the country as a whole.
- Allocating more resources to fight against populism in those issues where it is harder to change people’s opinions.
- Avoiding excessive use of emotional rhetoric – it does not work if used excessively.
- Investing in developing critical thinking.