Polarisation and populism

SYRI’s Petra Guasti gives a lecture at Oxford


It is rare for a Czech scientist to lecture at the University of Oxford. Petra Guasti, who leads a research group on polarisation in society at the SYRI National Institute, has just done so recently. Guasti’s lecture, co-authored with Mattia Zulianello of the University of Trieste, provides a summary of published scientific literature that addresses the interplay between populism and the pandemic.

“On the demand side, we highlight that anti-science attitudes are an important element in populist, anti-establishment sentiment,” said Guasti. “Conspiracy theories are closely associated with populist scepticism towards science and expertise; partisanship and a media diet tend to shape behaviours and beliefs towards Covid-19 and mitigation measures, including the wearing of face masks and vaccination.”

On the supply side, the scientists have analysed differences between the main types of populists in opposition. “Many populist parties and leaders in power engage in denialism, blame-avoidance and blame-shifting, not least on to experts,” said Guasti. “Depending on structural conditions, right- and left-wing populists in power might adopt similar responses, including seeking and succeeding in aggrandizing power by dismantling of checks and balances.”

As well as providing her with feedback on her review article, Petra Guasti considers her attendance of the 2023 Dahrendorf Colloquium – Europe and Freedom an inspirational experience altogether. “The Colloquium was attended by top world experts, and I really appreciated the opportunity to attend at the invitation of Professor Timothy Garton Ash,” she said.

-Link to the lecture: The Demand and Supply of Pandemic Populism: A Global Overview

-Link to the colloquium: Dahrendorf Colloquium 2023



PhDr. Petra Guasti M.A., Ph.D.

Position: Head of research group
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