A new report released by the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), based at the University of Sydney and Harvard University, scrutinizes whether support for populism is rising or whether it has stalled, comparing elections in the United States, the Netherlands, France, the UK, and Germany. The EIP is directed Pippa Norris, the Paul. F. McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).

The study suggests that populists heighten risks of electoral malpractices through three main mechanisms:

  • Damaging public trust in the electoral process, such as where Trump’s supporters believe the president’s repeated claims, without evidence, of massive electoral fraud and vote rigging;
  • Undermining international standards of electoral integrity and engaging in illegal malpractices, through practices such as corruption, coercion, and the lack of a level playing field as exemplified after populists came to power in the Philippines, Hungary and Turkey, as well as several specific cases of populist leaders violating electoral laws in Western democracies; and
  • Colluding with authoritarian interference in democratic contests abroad, including where populist candidates benefit from Russian cyber-attacks in the United States and France.

Ranking elections worldwide

The report, drawing upon the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity dataset release 5.0, also ranks the integrity of elections globally, identifying numerous polls beset by gerrymandered boundaries, restrictions on the free press, ballot box fraud, violence, and the abuse of money in politics. The data suggests that problems of corruption and coercion are widespread.

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