comparative politics Japan-related research

JPOSS #45: “Clarifying the Threat of Populism: Place and Party Organizational Strength”

The forty-fifth session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on February 1, 2024. Amy Catalinac (New York University) chaired the seminar and moderated the Q&A session.

Jiajia Zhou (University of Toronto) presented her paper which investigates the role of parties in shaping the populist vote. Responding to the literature on growth in electoral support for populism, the author focuses on how parties mediate this phenomenon. Building on theories of local party organizational strength and party-voter linkage, she uses municipal-level data in the case of Japan to tests the place-related hypotheses of populist support. In particular, the author looks at how support for the dominant party, the Liberal Democratic Party, varied during the 2005 Lower House election that received a populist framing as a de facto referendum on a bill struck down in the Upper House. The author finds support for the role of local party organizational strength but mixed results for clientelist party-voter linkage. Upon accounting for urban-rural differences, the results suggest a possible depolarizing role of party organizational strength in reconciling support for the geographically divisive policy.

Paul D. Kenny (Australian Catholic University) and Charles T. McClean (Yale University) offered insightful comments ranging from the concept of populism to framing, theory, and measurement considerations. During the Q&A session, participants furthered the discussion on other confounding factors and alternative sources of data to consider.

The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: