Ryan Mullins

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2019

Capstone Advisor

Mark Rupert

Honors Reader

Margaret Susan Thompson

Capstone Major

Political Science

Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

American Politics | Political Science


The following paper examines the relationship between Populism and Neoliberalism in the early 21st century in the U.S. Through the lens of a historical-structural analysis, it tests the hypothesis set forth by authors David Harvey, Dawson Barrett, and John B. Judis that the prominence of Populism in the 2016 election cycle could not be explained without the phenomenon of Neoliberalism in the U.S. To accomplish this, it examines the rise of income inequality and Neoliberal globalization and uses statistical and polling data to determine whether these variables were related to Neoliberalism and whether voters reacted to them in 2016. It further examines the issues espoused by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and looks at polling data to determine the beliefs of their supporters. By categorizing Bernie Sanders as an anti-Capitalist and Donald Trump as an anti-Globalist Populist, it sets up an empirical test to determine whether their supporters were primed for these Populist arguments. In finding that their supporters were indeed especially primed for these arguments and further finding that these rhetorical styles were linked to Neoliberalism via their opposition to the issues of income inequality and Neoliberal globalization – policy positions which are coded in this paper as anti-Neoliberal - this paper comes to the conclusion that the hypothesis that Neoliberalism provided a unique rhetorical catalyst for Populists to exploit is supported.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.



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