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Thread: Revealed: populist leaders linked to reduced inequality

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    Revealed: populist leaders linked to reduced inequality

    Populists on left and right have closed gap between rich and poor - but also eroded freedoms

    Source: The Guardian

    Paul Lewis, Seán Clarke and Caelainn Barr

    Populist presidents and prime ministers are associated with significant reductions in economic inequality across the world, according to groundbreaking research that will challenge the assumption that populism only has negative consequences.

    However, the research by political scientists and economists also found that governments run by populist leaders are correlated with declines in the quality of elections, a loosening of constraints on executive power, and a sometimes dramatic fall in press freedom.

    The research was conducted by Team Populism, a network of academics who have worked with the Guardian to produce the Global Populism Database, which gives leaders around the world a populism “score” based on the contents of their speeches.

    The team used the data, a comprehensive tracker of populist discourse among world leaders in 40 countries, to analyse what happens when populists come to power.

    The most surprising finding, they said, was that populists across the political spectrum tend to narrow the gap between rich and poor. The academics described the correlation between populism and greater equality as “a fairly large effect”.

    The impact on inequality appears largely driven by leftwing Latin American populist presidents, such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. However the statistical analysis controlled for ideological differences between leaders, and also holds, although to a lesser extent, for centrist and rightwing populists.

    “This was contrary to what I expected,” said David Doyle, an associate professor at Oxford University, who led the economic analysis. “Maybe I’ve just been biased by years of research that tells us that populism is bad.”

    More: The Guardian
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