Abstract: This study presents a comparative overview of the way the Facebook (FB) “Like” button was used by the selected populist leaders in four Central-Eastern European countries and Italy for a more permanent designation of their favourite public pages. In particular, research attention was focused on identifying the “alternative” media as potentially the main or a major source of linked and “liked” (both literally and figuratively) media and information sources on FB. If present, this should prove the existence of the ideological affinity between the “alternative” politics as presented by the populist leaders and parties and the “alternative” media. However, only some limited evidence in support for such connections in the five case studies was found. In contrast, although the original sample was carefully and logically selected based on cultural-historical-geographical proximity and presence of populist leaders (the most similar cases), the results suggest rather diverse results. The populist leaders under the analysis do not seem to have direct and more permanent affinity toward the “alternative” media sources. Even more in some cases (Matovič, Babiš) they seem to prefer the quality liberal mainstream media, while in other cases (Kaczynski, Morawiecki and Salvini) they prefer the ideologically close media, or show no more permanent preference for any media – Orbán and Kollár (who did not use this tool for more permanent designation of the “liked” media). These diverse findings suggest more questions than answers.

The School of Communication and Media