Populism and Social Media

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A comparative analysis of populists’ shared content and networks on Facebook

September 2021

Author(s)

Adina Marincea, Andrej Školkay (School of Communication an Media, SKAMBA)

Martin Baloge (University of Lorraine, UL), Arturo Bertero, Giuliano Bobba (University of Turin, UNITO), Nicolas Hubé (UL), Lena Karamanidou (Glasgow Caledonian University, GCU), Artur Lipińsky (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland), Moreno Mancosu (UNITO), Dejan Matic (University for Business Engeneering and Management, PEM), Osman Sahin (Glasgow Caledonian University, GCU), Emmanouil Tsatsanis and Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos (Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy, ELIAMEP)

Abstract

Populist politicians and political parties often prefer social media, especially Facebook, for their communication with the public. Populists, as well as radical left an right leaders and parties, especially those on the margins of the mainstream political system and with less access to traditional media, have seen in patforms like Facebook a gateway to direct communication with their audiences, in the wake of elections as well as in non-electoral periods. Despite this, comparative or in some cases, country-specific populist communication on social media remains rather under-studied. To fill empirical gap, the study explores contemporary populist politicians’ use of various media sources in their Facebook communication strategy, as well as the legacy and alternative media networks that disseminate and amplify their messages.

1 Introduction: Populism and Social Media

Conceptualisations of populism leave a lot of room for debate an are still lacking consensus on definitions and approaches. Though these may vary, from seeing populism as a political ideology within the ideational approach (Mudde, 2004; 2017), to discursive approaches that conceptualise it as a rhetoric (Laclau, 2005), style (Taguieff, 1997) or to ones that define populism in terms of macroeconomic policies (Dornbusch & Edwards, 1990), most conceptualisations associate it with negative connotations, whether articulated by scholars, journalist or politicians themselvs. In carrent media or political discourse, populism is most commonly associated with demagogy (which can also be present in the rhetoric of not typically populist parties), manipulative appeal to emotions or right-wing nationalism, and less often with positive aspects like direct democracy or people’s participation in politics – a perspective more often shared by populist leaders themselves (Salgado et al. 2019).