This research project aims to understand in what ways populist governments differ in their welfare and health-related policy responses to the pandemic in the context of the demise of democratic institutions. Our comparative analysis utilizes the unique opportunity provided by the global pandemic to study how populists govern under crisis situations and presents novel insights into the relationship between populism, welfare and health policies, and democratic backsliding. Applying a comparative perspective in terms of geographical areas and across policy fields will shed light on formerly unknown mechanisms of populist governance, and provide a deeper understanding of how and why populism and democratic backsliding flourishes in the current era in the global North and South.
As our investigation covers a diverse set of countries (Russia, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, India, and the Philippines), our findings will be relevant to varying geopolitical and social contexts. One of the most important research results includes a common conceptual framework to assess populist welfare policy responses to the pandemic. Based on our findings we will develop hypotheses as to why populist regimes differed in their policy responses to the pandemic. More broadly, the outcomes of the research will enable us to understand the role of welfare and health policy measures in legitimizing populist rule.