My main area of ​​research is comparative politics. In recent years I have been studying contemporary populist forces in Latin America, Europe and the United States. I am particularly interested in showing that populist actors are raising legitimate questions regarding the current state of democracy, even though their solutions tend to be more controversial than helpful. I have developed this research agenda around populism individually and in collaboration with colleagues working in different parts of the world. At the same time, I am working on other issues, such as far right forces in Latin America and the transformation of mainstream right political forces. Below is a brief summary of the topics I am currently addressing.

The Far Right in Latin America

Until not long ago, the far right was seen from Latin America as a distant phenomenon, which occurs in Europe. However, at the latest since the emergence of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil in 2018, it has become evident that the far right already exists in the Latin American region. The triumph of Javier Milei in Argentina in 2023 and the re-election of Nayib Bukele in El Salvador in 2024 reinforces this argument. However, we practically do have comparative studies on the different far right forces that are gaining ground throughout Latin America. To address this research gap, together with Carlos Meléndez, Talita Tanscheit and Lisa Zanotti we are carrying out a research project that seeks to study both “the demand” and “the supply” of the far right. On the one hand, we are studying through surveys who are the voters in favor and against the far right in several Latin American countries. On the other hand, we are analyzing the ideas developed by far right political forces in Latin America, in order to find similarities and differences both between them and in relation to exponents of the far right in Europe and the United States. Part of the results have been published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Latin American Studies Association (LASA).

The Populist Radical Right in Chile in Comparative Perspective

Although it is true that from the transition to democracy onwards, right-wing parties have been quite successful in Chile, we do not have many studies on this matter. In previous research, I have tried to address this issue to show how mainstream right-wing parties have experienced a process of programmatic moderation, which has ended up leaving a group of voters and leaders in a situation of political orphanhood. Precisely this largely explains the emergence of the populist radical right, which is being articulated by José Antonio Kast and the “Partido Republicano.” Through various methodologies, I am interested in understanding not only the ideas developed by the populist radical right, but also what the electorate's motives are for supporting and rejecting this political force. Empirical data collected reveal that there are broad sectors of citizens who reject the far right in Chile, as well as the similarity of the voters of the Chilean populist radical right with those who support these political formations in Western Europe. At the same time, the ideas raised by José Antonio Kast and the “Partido Republicano” are very much in tune with the programmatic offer of the populist radical right at a global level.

The Crisis of the Mainstream Right

Comparative evidence shows that the emergence of different far right formations leaves mainstream right-wing parties in a very difficult situation. Indeed, the latter experience a tension between, on the one hand, the need to continue appealing to moderate voters, many of whom express liberal and progressive values ​​associated with the “silent revolution” and, on the other hand, the need to attract to voters who sympathize with the authoritarian and illiberal ideas associated with the “silent counterrevolution” pursued by the populist radical right. Together with my colleague Tim Bale, we worked on an edited book about this for Western Europe, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2021. More recently I have continued working on this topic thanks to the support of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) and I am interested in generating comparative studies on the matter, also considering the situation of conventional right-wing parties in Latin America.

Populist Attitudes and Support for Democracy

Lately, research that seeks to measure the demand for populism has been gaining ground, that is, studies that work with surveys to find out what type of people show greater support for populist attitudes. Together with my colleague Steven van Hauwaert, we are working with data from several countries in Europe and Latin America to detect the extent to which citizens who show high rates of populism have similar or different socioeconomic and sociopolitical profiles. At the same time, we are especially interested in observing whether those who sympathize with populist ideas have a particular vision of democracy. To this end, we are developing a research project that seeks to empirically analyze the relationship between populist attitudes and the conception of democracy. Our working hypothesis is that citizens who sympathize with populism tend to prefer an illiberal model of democracy and, therefore, it is highly probable that the prerequisites for the proper functioning of liberal democracy are not sufficiently developed in important segments of the electorate. Empirical data collected for Western Europe confirm this thesis.