Don't call me a populist! The meaning of populism for western European parties and politicians

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In recent years a common understanding of the core elements of populist communication has been achieved in academia. Yet, we know less about how the term populism is used by political parties themselves, despite widespread assumptions about the use of populism as a battle term to disqualify competitors. Based on a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of Twitter content from mainstream and populist actors in six western European countries, this study finds that populism is indeed used by mainstream parties in a pejorative way in order to label political competitors. Yet, not only populist but also mainstream competitors are labeled populist by the center parties linking a variety of different negative meanings to the term, which are often of a less demonizing nature not questioning the legitimacy of others. Populists in Italy and France refer to the term in a positive way, while Spanish and German populists rather reject the label.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102358
JournalElectoral Studies
Publication statusPublished - 08.2021

    Research areas

  • Campaigning, Demonization, Political parties, Populism
  • Politics