Pressure, protest and populism

From pro-democracy protests in Honk Kong to revolution and civil strife across the Middle East and the success of populist parties in Europe, one of the defining mindsets of our age is a deep-seated hostility to political and financial elites.

In some places this has manifested itself as a call for greater democratic accountability and openness; elsewhere it has translated into a form of divisive anti-intellectualism, where nostalgia, blame and resentment are substituted for balanced debate and consensual policy-making. Whether its aims are constructive or disruptive, anti-establishment mobilisation has the potential to fuel political and economic instability. To understand the risks and the opportunities it presents, Counterpoint’s work takes an in-depth look at the phenomenon. We analyse the ‘hidden wiring’ behind anti-establishment mobilisation, focusing on the underlying social and cultural dynamics that explain why it flares up in some places and not others. Counterpoint’s culture-centred approach provides a unique tool for assessing and responding to the risks posed by anti-establishment mobilisation.

Our current work in this area is focused on the support and influence of populist parties in Europe. We are researching the shifting nature of populism’s support, strategies for countering populist narratives, and policies for engaging with the grievances at the root of populist success. As we predicted in an earlier report, at the recent European Parliament elections, populists surged into the lead in a number of countries, including France, Denmark and the UK. Our analysis and forecasting of the elections and of the subsequent impact of populist parties was widely covered in the national and international press, including in The Financial TimesThe Economist, The TelegraphCity A.M., Monocle 24, LibérationNeue Zürcher ZeitungEuractiv and Der Spiegel. Please see our list of recent reports, briefings and events to the right for further examples of our research.

Project news

Disputes and dilemmas

Disputes and dilemmas

Marley Morris writes on the EU's latest institutional wrangling following May's elections

After the elections – the European political groups

After the elections – the European political groups

Our analysis of the different populist groupings in the European Parliament

After the elections

After the elections

Our new charts explore what the European election results could mean for populism in the European Parliament


Strategic advice to manage new forms of cultural and social risks

Decoding cultures and making sense of context

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Interpreting public behaviour and emotions

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Crafting the right conversations

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News & events

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The roots of contemporary populism in the Netherlands

In light of this week’s elections in The Netherlands, here is something we published a couple of years ago on the rise of Dutch...

Red bus europe

Europe’s riddle: Migration, community experiences and public opinion

Counterpoint examines the local experience of migration and integration across five European countries in light of the 2014-2015 migration crisis. Our research in Sweden,...


The wide open space of the French elections

This is a good time to review the dynamics of what is turning out to be a much more open field than anyone would...