In recent years, populism has attracted considerable interest from social scientists and political
commentators (Panizza 2005, Bale et al. 2011, Mudde 2004, Berezin 2013, Rovira Kaltwasser
2013), despite the fact that, “[t]he mercurial nature of populism has often exasperated those
attempting to take it seriously” (Stanley 2008, 108). Indeed, the term ‘populism’ is both widely
used and widely contested (Roberts 2006; Barr 2009).1 It has been defined based on political,
economic, social, and discursive features (Weyland 2001, 1) and analyzed from myriad
theoretical perspectives—including structuralism, post-structuralism, modernization theory,
social movement theory, party politics, political psychology, political economy, and democratic
theory—and a variety of methodological approaches, such as archival research, discourse
analysis, and formal modeling (Acemoglu et al. 2011, Ionescu and Gellner 1969, Canovan 2002,
Hawkins 2009, Goodliffe 2012, Postel 2007). As observed by Wiles, “to each his own definition
of populism, according to the academic axe he grinds” (Wiles, in Iunescu and Gellner 1969, p.
Contemporary nationalism is typically framed as an oppositional ideology that legitimates the struggles of ethnic minorities for political sovereignty or, alternatively, justifies the xenophobic claims of nativist fringe groups. The emphasis on nationalism’s incendiary varieties, however, has led to the neglect of everyday popular nationalism—the routine and tacit acceptance of the nation-state as a primary object of identification and loyalty, as well as a fundamental unit of political organization. In an effort to address this gap in research, I examine the cross-national variation in popular conceptions of the nation-state using pooled-sample latent class analysis, a method that allows me to account for both within- and between-country heterogeneity and avoid reductive a priori assumptions about the national boundedness of culture. Having demonstrated that the resulting fourfold typology of popular nationalism is predictive of a wide range of political beliefs and is remarkably consistent across countries and over time, I show how the relative prevalence of the four types of nationalism shifts within countries in response to economic and political events that increase the salience of the nation-state. This study breaks new ground in the study of nationalism and offers a novel approach to the use of survey data in comparative research on political culture.