In our Collaborator Introduction series, CSES collaborators discuss their research agenda and how they became involved with CSES.
The Japanese Election Study
My first involvement with The Comparative Study of Electoral Studies (CSES) began in 2006. Ken’ichi Ikeda, who served on the planning committee for CSES Modules 3 and 4, invited me to join his team for CSES data collection for the Japanese Election Study, and I accepted with great pleasure. His team had collected data for these modules in Japan with support from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. After the expiration of his term, I joined the planning committee, whose members are from various countries. It’s truly wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss agenda items within the committee and chat over dinner. Both experiences are very informative and worthwhile.
When Ken’ichi and I began our collaboration, Jun’ichiro Koizumi was the prime minister of Japan. His political style was regarded as populist by some political analysts in the country (e.g. Otake 2006). In January 2008, lawyer Toru Hashimoto was elected governor of Osaka Prefecture and remained a major political figure until his retirement as mayor of Osaka City in December 2015. His influence was not limited to local politics. In 2012, Hashimoto became leader of the Japan Restoration Party (Nihon Ishin no Kai), which had seats in the Lower House and Upper House. His political style is also identified as populist (Kobori 2013).
Populism is often defined as a leader’s strategy (Weyland 1999; 2001) or a performance style (Moffitt 2016). However, success with such approaches is not guaranteed. They may work for some politicians, but others may fail to mobilize popular support. Leaders who adopt a populist style but do not win enough popular support to gain political influence will not be known as populists. The question here is this: How and why do some populistic politicians manage to persuade voters while others do not?
In the theory of persuasion proposed by Arthur Lupia and Mathew D. McCubbins (1998), the speaker, who is perceived as having interests in common with voters and being knowledgeable, is persuasive. In elections, parties and candidates try to persuade people to vote for them. People who perceive that election candidates share their interests and have appropriate policies as well as the competence to implement them will vote in favor of them. When populists succeed in mobilizing voters, they are regarded as persuasive and competent by those voters.
This raises another question: How do voters come to recognize candidate parties and politicians as persuasive? To answer this, we need data. Comparative analysis of the current global wave of populism requires a cross-national dataset. In CSES Module 5, the theme “Democracy Divided? People, Politicians and the Politics of Populism” sets the scene for clarification of respondents’ attitudes toward elites. Behind the wave of populism, there must be dissatisfaction and distrust of elites and establishments. The intent here is to capture these opinions in Module 5 in order to support cross-national comparison and clarify the nature of populism’s global rise. This is a very exciting initiative, and I look forward to collecting the data.
Masahiro Yamada is a professor at Kwansei Gakuin University’s School of Law and Politics and a member of the Japanese Election Study. His research interests include political participation and electoral politics.
Kobori, Masahiro. 2013. “Populism as Rhetorical Politics in Britain and Japan: ‘Devil take the hindmost’.” Ritsumeikan Law Review (30): 107-122.
Lupia, Arthur and Mathew D. McCubbins. 1998. The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know? Cambridge University Press.
Moffitt, Benjamin. 2016. The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation. Stanford University Press.
Otake, Hideo．2006．Koizumi Jun’ichiro, Populism no Kenkyu (A Study of Populism)，Toyo Keizai Shimposha: Tokyo, Japan (in Japanese).
Weyland, Kurt. 1999. “Neoliberal Populism in Latin America and Eastern Europe.” Comparative Politics (31;4): 379-401.
———-. 2001. “Clarifying a Contested Concept: Populism in the Study of Latin American Politics.” Comparative Politics (34): 1-22.