One in four Europeans voted for a populist, and populist parties in Europe have tripled their supporters over the last two decades. This shows a study conducted by the Guardian newspaper in cooperation with 30 apparent political scientists, part a project of the University of Amsterdam.

Populist parties have tripled their support in Europe over the last 20 years, providing enough votes to put their leaders in government positions in 11 countries and challenge the political order of the continent. The constant growth in support of European populist parties, particularly right wing ones, is revealed in a revolutionary analysis of their presentation in the national elections in 31 European countries for two decades.

The figures show that populism has steadily increased since 1998. Two decades ago, populist parties were largely insignificant, forming only 7 percent of the votes on the continent; in the last national elections, one in four voted was for a populist party.

“Not so long ago populism was a phenomenon of the political periphery. Today, it has become increasingly widespread: some of the most important political events, such as the Brexit referendum and the choice of Donald Trump, cannot be understood without taking into account the increase of populism. The soil for populism is becoming increasingly fertile and populist parties are increasingly able to gain the benefits, comment the authors of the study.

The supporters of populism say that it protects the ordinary person against the waves of liberalization and is therefore a vital force in every democracy. But critics say that populists often undermine democratic norms, whether they undermine the media and the judiciary or repress minority rights.

Populists are reluctant to shape politics as a battle between “ordinary” masses and corrupt elite – and they insist that the general will of the people must always prevail.

The findings of the study come six months before the European parliamentary elections, which some predict that they can lead to more and more right-wing populists in the EP’s 751 seats.

Populism in Europe dates back several decades: the extremely right Party of Freedom of Austria was founded in 1956 by a former Nazi and won more than 20 per cent of the votes in 1994. It is now part of the country’s ruling coalition.

Europe is not alone at this stage: populists are elected in executive power in five of the seven largest democracies in the world: India, the United States, Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines.