Julia Azari

The Political Geography of Presidential Populism

The theme of populism has been an especially potent one in explaining Trump’s appeal to a geographically key group of so-called “white working class voters.” (Gelman and Azari 2017). Past populist movements in the United States have been linked to the economic or cultural grievances of particular regions, such as the agrarian Interior West or the South.


Political Elites and Populism in US and Europe

+ Group Panel Discussion


  • Political Elite
  • Populism
  • Geography

However, American politics…

has become increasingly nationalized, with fewer regional disparities (Hopkins 2018; Azari and Hetherington 2017; Jacobson 2015; Klinghard 2010).

Using the speeches available on the American Presidency Project’s website, we analyzed the populist rhetoric of Donald Trump and George W. Bush in speeches delivered throughout the country after taking office.

For populist W. Bush, we find modest use of populist rhetoric overall, with little regional variation.

For Trump…

we find limited evidence of regional variation, with populist themes most heavily emphasized at rallies and in front of conservative elite audiences.

Our preliminary findings suggest that Trump’s populist appeals differ from those of past movements, and may be aimed at elites rather than the broader electorate.