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Income Misperception and Populism

SOEPpapers 1177, 7 S.

Thilo N. H. Albers, Felix Kersting, Fabian Kosse


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We propose that false beliefs about the own current economic status are an important factor for explaining populist attitudes. Along with the subjects' receptiveness to right-wing populism, we elicit their perceived relative income positions in a representative survey of German households. We find that people with pessimistic beliefs about their income position are more attuned to populist statements. Key to understanding the misperception-populism relationship are strong gender differences in the mechanism: Misperception triggers income dissatisfaction for both men and women, but the former are much more likely to channel their discontent into affection for populist ideas.

JEL-Classification: D63;D72;D91;P16
Keywords: Perception, income, populism