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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Media Cues and Support for Right-Wing Populist Parties

Penelope Sheets Thibaut
University of Amsterdam
Penelope Sheets Thibaut
University of Amsterdam
Linda Bos
University of Amsterdam
Hajo Boomgaarden
University of Vienna

Right-wing populist parties are thriving across Europe, currently holding seats in national parliaments in most European countries. Usual explanations for the success of these parties are based on notions related to economics, national identity or cultural alienation. Others, however, have shown—on a macro-level—that the mass media also play a significant role in promoting the success of the populist right. Little is known, however, about how mass media coverage may affect support for the populist right on the level of the individual voter. Our study seeks to fill this gap.

We use an experimental design embedded in an online survey of a representative sample of voters. Our design draws on the two central aspects of populist politics, incorporating both anti-politics and anti-immigration sentiments as media cues presented in a simulated news article. In addition, we add cueing of the far-right party of interest as a third experimental manipulation. Furthermore, resting on the assumption that explicit survey measures of support for extreme right parties usually considerably underestimate the amount of support for these parties for reasons of social desirability, we employ both explicit and implicit measures for extreme right support.

Accordingly, this study addresses the following questions: First, to what extent does a message cueing immigration, anti-politics, or far-right parties boost electoral support for far-right parties? Second what are the differences in the effects of the different message cues? And third, are the effects of the message cues on party support mediated through relevant political attitudes? Our study expands our understanding of the effects media messages can have on far-right support, the relationships between explicit and implicit measures of far-right attitudes, and the differential effectiveness of competing political cues in this domain.
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