The presidency of Donald Trump was a monumental event for populists worldwide. While there is little doubt regarding whether Trump is a populist, the extent to which his populism spread to other actors in the US political system has been left unanswered. Because the study of populism has primarily been preoccupied with the highest levels of executive power, thus far there has been little insight into the presence of populism in the lower levels of government. Seeking to answer these questions, I utilize an original dataset consisting of 400 human-coded speeches from 100 governor terms across all 50 US states. The findings reveal no support for the hypothesis that the Trump presidency increased the level of populism in the US political system or even the Republican party itself. Moreover, low levels of populism are found across all US governors’ terms, indicating that populist political discourse offers sub-optimal benefits to politicians in the lower levels of government.
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