Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2022

Thesis Advisor(s)

Jeffrey Ladewig; Matthew Singer

Honors Major

Political Science


American Politics


Across the United States, recent waves of populism have disrupted existing political institutions and fueled the rise of figures like Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left. Myriad research has been conducted to examine the reasons behind this surge; underlying much of the literature is the story of a population who is deeply unsettled by how global changes threaten the social and economic fabric of their communities. This thesis will test many of the possible drivers of populism, including economic wellbeing, income inequality, social capital, and community breakdown. Using data from the 2016 Democratic presidential primary and the 2016 general election, we investigate the inputs of contemporary populism in the United States. Although the results were somewhat mixed, we find that close-knit counties were more likely to turn to populism, especially when those counties were economically stressed.