Collective Narcissism and the Motivational Underpinnings of the Populist Backlash

Golec de Zavala, Agnieszka; Lantos, Dorottya and Keenan, Oliver. 2021. Collective Narcissism and the Motivational Underpinnings of the Populist Backlash. In: Joseph P. Forgas; William D. Crano and Klaus Fiedler, eds. The Psychology of Populism: The Tribal Challenge to Liberal Democracy. New York: Routledge, pp. 105-122. ISBN 9780367523909 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Collective narcissism is a belief that one’s own group is exceptional but not sufficiently recognized by others. Endorsement of this belief is associated with support for the populist governments in Poland and Hungary; and support for Trump in the US and the Brexit in the UK. We analyze the current research on conditions of populism and on Polish collective narcissism to propose that national collective narcissism is a key feature of the current wave of populism. Polish collective narcissism is associated with perceived relative economic deprivation as well as homophobia and sexism via the belief that non-traditional women and sexual minorities threaten the national identity. Given this evidence, we argue that collective narcissism is used by populist leaders to justify the traditional group-based hierarchies. We analyze research on psychological predictors of collective narcissism to understand the motivational underpinnings of support for populism. Findings indicate that collective narcissism is motivated by frustrated sense of self-importance. Thus, we conclude that despite its overt claims, populism does not express a desire for social justice for the ‘forgotten’ by globalization. It expresses a desire to feel better than others based on one’s in-group’s status and to openly express prejudice towards lower status groups.

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"This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in The Psychology of Populism: The Tribal Challenge to Liberal Democracy on 18 February 2021, available online: It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way."


collective narcissism, populism, sexism, homophobia

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18 February 2021Published

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08 Dec 2022 10:28

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08 Dec 2022 12:02


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