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15th ECPR General Conference, University of Innsbruck

Populist Political Communication in Hungary: Content Analysis of Single-Member Constituency Candidates’ Facebook Posts

Social Media
Gergő Hajzer
University of Szeged
Gergő Hajzer
University of Szeged
Norbert Merkovity
University of Szeged

Populism has become a widespread phenomenon in Europe and worldwide in the recent years. After the financial and economic crisis, the populist movements have gained an increasing support by promising a quick and large scale economic development, often accompanied by a negative rhetoric and thus a full showdown of the ruling “elite”. Though it has been identified such as an ideology, political strategy, or discursive style, it does not have a commonly accepted definition. This study discusses populism as a communication strategy and investigates its relevance in the Hungarian political sphere. Seeking for the audience’s attention populist actors simplify their messages to an easily understandable language this way reducing the need for an intellectual and critical potential. As a communication strategy populism can be defined as an ideologically neutral phenomenon that refers to the people. However, the content of the different variations of the populist political communication strategies differs along the communicators’ preferences. Thus in order to provide a deep analysis on the political actors’ populist communication one of the key methods used can be either discourse or content analysis. The spread of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram has affected on reshaping the political communication we have known before. Political actors have also appeared on these social networks in order to open a new platform in competing for the voters’ attention. This research focuses on the content analysis of the direct messages sent by politicians to the voters in the form of Facebook posts. More concretely, the research covers the Hungarian single-member constituency candidates’ Facebook posts in finding populist patterns. Three candidates’ posts from three different parties (government party, right opposition party, left opposition party) per the 106 single-member constituencies are analysed. Potentially 318 pages was monitored. The timeframe of the artificial data collection was from the beginning of the campaign period of the 2018 Hungarian general elections (17th of February) to the exact date of the election (8th of April). Findings show that all three parties in question have used populist political communication strategy during their Facebook campaign however the intensity differs.
This research was supported by the project nr. EFOP-3.6.2-16-2017-00007, titled Aspects on the development of intelligent, sustainable and inclusive society: social, technological, innovation networks in employment and digital economy. The project has been supported by the European Union, co-financed by the European Social Fund and the budget of Hungary.
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