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The Masks of the Political God by Luca Ozzano

Media Populism versus Populism Style – Core Relational Themes as Emotional Predictors of Populist Communication Strategies within News Media

Political Psychology
Social Media
David Abadi
University of Amsterdam
David Abadi
University of Amsterdam
Jan Willem Duyvendak
University of Amsterdam
Agneta Fischer
University of Amsterdam

Various empirical studies consider emotions as essential for information processing as well as formation of (public) opinion among citizens (Marcus and MacKuen 1993; Marcus 2002; Hall 2005). Latest attempts to scrutinize populism from the social psychological and emotional perspective have described populist ideology and its operationalization as combining an advocative position toward the people and conflictual one toward the elites (Wirth, Esser, Wettstein, Engesser, Wirz, Schulz & Müller, 2016). Populist communication strategies have been discussed (Rico, Guinjoan & Anduiza, 2017) and demonstrated through experimental research (Wirz, 2018) as being successful in inducing emotions in citizens by targeting certain patterns, the so-called core relational themes (see Lazarus, 2001). According to the concept of media populism (Krämer, 2014; Mazzoleni, 2014), media can contribute to the construction of in-groups and out-groups, to evoke hostility toward elites and to spread provocative emotions. This multi-level analysis intends to detect the core relational themes as emotional predictors within primary data (e.g. news/social media data) and secondary data (e.g. censuses/public survey data), considering various country-level factors across Germany and the Netherlands. Based on previous research (see Wirth et al., 2016; Reinemann, Matthes & Sheafer, 2017), stylistic elements of populist actors (e.g., highly emotional, slogan-based, tabloid-style language, colloquial language, simplification, emotional language, absolutism, black-and-white rhetoric and dramatization) and commercial media outlets (e.g., scandalization, personalization, emotionalization or simplification, audience-friendly language) will be detected and analyzed. This way, we aim to back-trace and evaluate their ties to modern concepts of social identity (Hogg, 2014; Schulz, Wirth, & Müller, 2018), because the latter shapes the type of emotions citizens feel for refugees/immigrants and elite groups (Salmela & von Scheve, 2017). Furthermore, negative emotionality is the basis for populist attitudes (Mudde 2004) and a predictor of political extremism and out-group derogation (van Prooijen, Krouwel, Boiten, & Eendebak, 2015).
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