A new study indicates that Populism has now surpassed liberalism in European politics. Anti-establishment ideologies have apparently succeeded in taking over the desperate hearts of European voters who place their faith in the hands of those who promise total change. Authoritarian governments rarely existed in the 1980s. This has changed today. A quarter of European Union member states are led by anti-establishment governments.

We have recently witnessed the infamous Brexit in the UK, as well as Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France coming close to victory in their respective general elections.

These signs, and more, are laid out in a recent study published by Swedish think tank TIMRBO and the European Policy Information Center. This so-called Authoritarian Populism Index 2017 indicates that conservatism and social democracy continue to be the first two ideological preferences by European voters, but authoritarian-populism has now moved past liberalism and become the third choice.

Populist parties feeling the support in Europe

One fifth of European voters, or 55.8 million people, cast a vote in favor of a populist party in the latest general elections. Since 1997, support for such political parties in Europe has increased by 7.5 percent.

The report mentions that while left-wing populism has emerged strongly in the last decade, right-wing populism has witnessed a constant growth over the last 30 years and remains the favorite of the two.

The so-called "radical Left" had faded away between 1980 and the 2000s. Its average vote share was 9.9 percent in 1981, and it hit rock bottom in 2010 when that percentage became 3.7. However, in the last seven years, it has made a remarkable comeback and recorded a 6.3 percent in average vote share in 2017.

On the other hand, right-wing populism has firmly established itself in European societies ever since 1980.

Its populism has grown in a consistent manner over the years. Its record low was 1 percent in 1982, and the historical high was recorded in 2016 with 12.3 percent. This percentage is 12.1 in 2017. Nationalist parties have spurred this ascension for the most part.

The radicalization of Europe

Nine European countries currently have populist parties in power, and seven are part of the EU.

Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Norway, and Poland have right-wing populist parties, while Greece and Slovakia have left-wing ones. Countries like Denmark (21.1 percent), Austria (24 percent), Switzerland (30.8 percent), Poland (46.4 percent), and Hungary (65.2 percent) have witnessed how their right-wing nationalist-authoritarian parties have experienced their highest vote shares.

The study does not only provide evidence of the growing support for authoritarian-populist parties by the Europeans. The study also suggests that these political groups are here to stay. The radicalization of the European voter is consequently moving him/her away from the conventional political ideologies. What remains to be seen is how long will these people accept these illiberal ideas.