Make It Great Again: The Relationship Between Populist Attitudes and Nostalgia

J.W. van Prooijen*, S. Rosema, A. Chemke-Dreyfus, K. Trikaliti, R. Hormigo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Populist movements typically endorse a pessimistic view that blames the "elites" for societal problems. Why is this populist worldview so appealing to many citizens? We propose that populism is associated with nostalgia: A bittersweet feeling defined as a sentimental longing for a better past. We tested this idea in three preregistered studies. Study 1 revealed that both personal and collective nostalgia (i.e., referring to either personal memories or a shared national history) were associated with populist attitudes. Moreover, the nostalgia measures mediated a link between collective angst and populist attitudes. Studies 2 and 3, then, were experiments designed to investigate the causal order between nostalgia and populist attitudes. In Study 2, a manipulation of nostalgia could not establish a causal effect on populist attitudes; however, a measure of nostalgia was again correlated to populist attitudes. In Study 3, we tested the reverse causal order by exposing participants to either a populist or pluralist speech. Results revealed that exposure to the populist speech increased both personal and collective nostalgia. In all studies, these effects emerged independent of political orientation. Apparently, feelings of nostalgia are closely associated with populist attitudes and may help explain why citizens find a populist worldview appealing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-968
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number5
Early online date17 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • anxiety
  • collective angst
  • collective nostalgia
  • discourse
  • people
  • personal nostalgia
  • political ideology
  • populism
  • radical right
  • support
  • times

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