Failure to launch? The lack of populist attitudinal activation in the 2019 South African elections

Robert Nyenhuis*, Collette Schulz-Herzenberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Do South Africans hold strong populist attitudes? If so, who is the ‘populist citizen’ and have these attitudes been activated in the electoral arena? In this article, we make use of 2019 Comparative National Elections Project (CNEP) data to answer these questions. We find that populist attitudes tend to vary across levels of education, geographic location and racial groups. Given the constant supply of populist rhetoric from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), we expected this party to marshal electoral support from citizens holding the strongest populist attitudes. However, we contend that the party's racialised populism and radicalism ultimately handicapped it at the ballot box. The EFF ultimately suffered from citizens’ mistrust, its lack of credibility and savvy political moves by the ANC ahead of the election.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-279
Number of pages23
JournalThe Journal of Modern African Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes

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