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Populist Framing in Election Campaigns: A comparative empirical analysis of populism frames in political PR and the media coverage during the 2008 Aus

Georg Winder
University of Innsbruck
Günther Lengauer
University of Innsbruck
Georg Winder
University of Innsbruck
Open Panel

Abstract

Populism is a controversially discussed term that often bears a negative connotation due to its historical background and its attributed ability of being able to devaluate and destabilize democratic processes (e.g. Canovan, 1999). Nevertheless, it is not only an ideological concept but can also be seen as a communicative technique (Jagers, 2007) deployed by political actors as well as the media in order to improve their competitiveness in an increasingly complex political communication environment. Albeit its inherent practical relevance, there has been little systematic integration of populism concepts into political communication and election research and its empirical testing so far. In order to contribute empirical findings to this understudied field of research, our paper analytically contrasts patterns of populist communication frames in party press releases and media coverage of the 2008 election campaign in Austria. We introduce a three-dimensional model of populist framing that consists of the dimensions: inclusion, exclusion and leader centrism. By doing so, we will be able to empirically allegorize in which way populist communication determines campaign communication and media coverage. Furthermore, we will ascertain whether the driving and decisive forces in populist communication are the political parties or the media or both. The paper rests on methodologically harmonized, quantitative content analyses of about 2500 party press releases and media reports in the final four weeks of the 2008 Austrian election campaign.