Scholarship on populism has focused on the ways in which charismatic leaders trade economic benefits for political support and their ability to smother political institutions. But the Nicaraguan case suggests that attention should also be given to the other end of the polity—namely, the absence in the general population of a democratic culture that offers needed support for political institutions. In Nicaragua, the scarcity of informed, engaged, and exacting citizens—participants in politics—is an important part of the explanation for the persistence of personalism and populism.