Carsten Reinemann, The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens in:

Benjamin Krämer, Christina Holtz-Bacha (Ed.)

Perspectives on Populism and the Media, page 215 - 234

Avenues for Research

1. Edition 2020, ISBN print: 978-3-8487-5561-5, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-9739-2,

Series: International Studies on Populism, vol. 7

Bibliographic information
The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens Carsten Reinemann Introduction A few years ago, scholars reviewing research on the effects of populist messages on the individual painted a rather dark picture: studies were scarce and confined in their scope, and the knowledge produced was rather limited. Comparative effects studies—crucial to understanding an international phenomenon like populism—were almost completely missing from the literature, and evidence relied on a small set of studies from a few countries (Aalberg, Esser, Reinemann, Strömäck, & de Vreese, 2017). This situation has changed in recent years, as communication and political science scholars have begun to concentrate on the communicative processes involved in populist communication, applying concepts from media/ communication effects research to the phenomenon of populism and using the methods toolkit from political communication studies (see also Rooduijn, 2019; Sengul, 2019). This enormous expansion of research activities seems to be explained not only by the successes of populist actors across the globe, but also by the notion that the individual-level psychological foundations of populist success will remain unclear unless scholars take “a look at the way citizens select, perceive, process, and interpret [populist] messages” and consider “the way these perceptions are moderated or mediated by (…) citizen predispositions” (Reinemann, Matthes, & Shaefer, 2017, p. 381). This supports the idea that the individual-level mechanisms of information processing and persuasion provide an often-missing link between real-world circumstances, political actor and media activities, and the individual-level outcomes that researchers are commonly interested in—most importantly, voting behavior. An increasing number of theoretical and empirical studies argue that populist messages from politicians, news media, or fellow citizens can have significant effects on voters’ emotions, cognitions, opinions, and behaviors (see Hameleers, Reinemann, Schmuck, & Fawzi, 2019). Some scholars even hold the view that populism’s electoral success cannot be truly ex- 1. 215 plained without considering how populism is communicated, how the media cover populist political actors, or how the media themselves apply populist framing in their coverage (e.g., Krämer, 2014; Mazzoleni, Stewart, & Horsfield, 2003; Sengul, 2019). Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to review the theoretical concepts and findings pertaining to the use, reception, and effects of populist communication messages, as well as to their psychological underpinnings. In the following section, populist political communication and its elements will be defined. In the subsequent section, a multi-level integrative theoretical framework for the study of populist communication effects will be discussed, which provides the context for the individual-level effects model that will be presented in the third section. The concluding section will highlight some avenues for future research. The Elements of Populist Political Communication In the study of the effects of populist communication, it is necessary to first define and identify its core elements. In that respect, scholars have primarily examined the ideational substance or content and the stylistic features of populist communication. Furthermore, in order to understand the distribution of populist messages (which is key to its effects), this chapter will also look at the various sources containing and spreading populist messages (de Vreese, Esser, Aalberg, Reinemann & Stanyer, 2018). Regarding populism’s ideational substance, consensus seems to be growing around certain basic elements, which may be reflected in political positions and communicative messages (see also Krämer, 2018). The first element is the focus on an allegedly homogenous people that is claimed to be suffering, neglected, or disadvantaged. Putting these ‘ordinary people’ first is the most fundamental perspective of populism, and it is reflected in what scholars have called “people-centrism” or “heartland framing” (e.g., Mudde, 2004; Mudde & Rovira Kaltwasser, 2017; Taggart, 2007). Consequently, populism highlights the importance of ‘the people’ as an ingroup, fosters identification with this in-group, and makes the in-group and its situation the key point of reference in political discourse (e.g., Mény & Surel, 2002; also Laclau, 2005). Although such focus on a specific in-group identity (“us”) can be a powerful unifying tool in an otherwise fragmented modern society, many scholars see this focus as problematic, because it carries with it the roots of intergroup conflict and lends itself to illiberalism (see Abts & Rummens, 2007). 2. Carsten Reinemann 216 In fact, aspects relating to intergroup conflict are the second element that is often regarded as a key feature of populism. With a focus on antielitism and/or anti-out-group stances, populism propagates a view of society in which societal grievances are mainly traced back to groups of ill intent, reducing issues to questions like “Who benefits?” and “Who is to blame?” (e.g., Krämer, 2018). As a result, the political elites (e.g., “the establishment”) and/or out-groups (‘them’, e.g. refugees, minorities, artists, journalists, the wealthy) are portrayed as being fundamentally opposed to the ingroup and its interests. No matter how different these groups may seem, they can be regarded as functional equivalents in that they represent the actors viewed as responsible for the decline, suffering, and neglect of the “real” people. In terms of the style of populist communication, several scholars argue that populist communication often uses strongly negative and emotionalizing messages that constitute a crisis narrative (e.g., Moffitt, 2016; Moffit & Tormey, 2014). This narrative often paints a very dark picture of the status quo and tells the audience why they should be worried and why they should look for someone to blame; after all, if no crisis exists—be it more real or more imagined—it becomes unnecessary to search for a scapegoat. In order to be able to create an impression of imminent crisis, populists are said to be especially prone to using simplistic, divisive, dramatizing, and emotional messages, along with a rhetoric that is intended to bridge the gap between populist communicators and their audience (e.g., direct, colloquial, vulgar language; Engesser, Fawzi, & Larsson, 2017; Krämer, 2014; Maurer et al., 2019; Reinemann, Aalberg, Esser, Strömbäck & de Vreese, 2017). On the whole, populist communication is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, involving a combination of ideas and positions resulting in different kinds of populism, including empty, anti-elite, anti-out-group, leftwing, and right-wing (e.g., Jagers & Walgrave, 2007; Reinemann et al., 2017a). Moreover, populist communication is a gradual phenomenon, because its various elements can be more or less important in the ideology, positions, and communication of various actors. Furthermore, the very core of populism involves framing seemingly crisis-ridden political issues in terms of intergroup differences, intergroup blaming, and intergroup emotions. This aspect distinguishes populist actors from other ideologies that dominate modern-day democratic political discourse (e.g., Reinemann et al., 2017a; Hameleers et al., 2018; Hameleers, Reinemann, Schmuck, & Fawzi, 2019). The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens 217 A Multi-Level Model of Populist Communication Effects Why are the aforementioned elements of populist communication especially successful in persuading voters, and under what circumstances? Scholars have only recently started to develop communication-centered models to help answer these questions. In this section, we first refer to the general multi-level heuristic model by Reinemann et al. (2017a; 2019b) and then to the more specific individual-level effects model by Hameleers et al. (2019) in order to illustrate why this line of thinking might be a valuable addition to our understanding of populism. Reinemann et al. (2017a; 2019b) placed the processes of individual (socio-)psychological effects into a broader context of a multi-level heuristic model that conceptualizes populist communication more generally. The model distinguishes: (a) real-world societal circumstances (macro level); (b) communicative activities of political actors, mass media reporting, and interpersonal communication among citizens (meso level), and (c) citizens’ individual practices of selecting and processing the information they encounter (micro level). In the model, patterns of individual-level effects of populist communication in a given context depend on the interplay of these various factors and levels of analysis (Figure 1).   A multi-level model of populist communication effects (based on Reinemann et al., 2017a; 2019b) 3. Figure 1. Carsten Reinemann 218 Generally, explanations of the rise and fall of populism distinguish demand-side factors from supply-side factors. The latter constitute the opportunity structures that benefit or damage populist actors. Analytically, these structures can be situated at any and all levels of political systems (international, regional, national, sub-national). In terms of the demand-side factors, research particularly cites economic and cultural developments as drivers of populist success, due to their potential to change the minds of citizens who might then speak out, express their views in polls, and vote differently (e.g., Lucassen & Lubbers, 2012; van Hauwaert & van Kessel, 2018; van Kessel, 2013). Demand-side factors are often conceptualized at the contextual macro-level, since they influence societies as a whole. This is also the case in the model by Reinemann et al. (2017a; 2019b), although the latter model also highlights that these macro-level circumstances must be perceived by individuals in order for a “demand” for populist politics to be produced. Generally, the case concerning macro-level influences is that populist arguments will be more effective in contexts and situations in which perceptions of threat, insecurity, and deprivation are supported by real-world problems and grievances or by fast-moving and profound societal changes (e.g., Elchardus & Spuyt, 2016; Gest, Reny, & Mayer, 2018; Kübler & Kriesi, 2017; Rodrik, 2018; also Rooduijn & Burgoon, 2018). For example, economic crisis might cause real economic suffering and insecurity among the citizens of the affected countries or regions (e.g., Becker, Fetzer, & Novy, 2016; Otjes, Ivaldi, Jupskas, & Mazzoleni, 2018); immigration may trigger feelings of cultural and economic threat; and establishing equal opportunities for formerly/currently underprivileged groups may induce fears of losing privileges and becoming disadvantaged (e.g., Kübler & Kriesi, 2017; Rodrik, 2018). Importantly, it is not only the perception of a personal, individual threat that may be important, but also the perception of a threat to one’s in-group (Berning & Schlueter, 2016). In addition to economic and cultural factors, previous successes of populist parties and low levels of trust in social institutions (including the news media) have also been discussed as relevant macro-level factors contributing to populist success (e.g., Hameleers et al., 2018). Where populist political parties or media are successful, the audience may get used to populist narratives; consequently, populist positions may be normalized, and the backfire effects of once-controversial statements may be reduced. Moreover, frequent repetition of populist crisis narratives may lend credibility to populist arguments and reality constructions, due to truth effects (e.g., Koch & Zerback, 2013). In addition, high levels of distrust in institutions may provide fertile grounds for populism; in contrast, it is harder to por- The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens 219 tray elites as a threat to society if a lot of people trust institutions, as populist anti-elite messages are not likely to resonate with the overall image of the “establishment” (e.g., Hameleers et al., 2019). These and other macrolevel factors can help explain why specific populist message elements may prove effective in some countries but not in others, as well as help identify the reasons for regional differences between (for example) Eastern and Western European nations (e.g., Andreadis et al., 2019; Corbu et al., 2019; see also Minkenberg, 2017). However, from the perspective of political communication, a direct link between actual macro-level conditions and citizen perceptions is not selfevident, and the model sheds light on the fact that citizens do have direct experiences with such phenomena as economic crises or the influx of refugees. In addition, individual impressions of societal situations are formed on the basis of information provided by political actors (politicians, parties, movements, etc.), news media, and fellow citizens (e.g., de Vreese et al., 2018). Political actors might be able to reach citizens directly and without filter via advertising, public speeches, party manifestos, or their own online media channels (websites, social media, etc.). More often, citizens will encounter populists’ messages in news media coverage. Although journalists might critically comment on populist actions and positions, this spread of populism through the media will increase its visibility and might even inadvertently lend legitimacy to their positions (Esser, Stepinska, & Hopmann, 2017). In addition, news media might even engage in populism by the media or media populism if they use populist frames in their reporting and commentary (e.g., Krämer, 2014; 2018; Esser et al., 2017). Finally, fellow citizens may also be an important source of populist messages, especially in this period of the growing importance of social media (e.g., Engesser, Fawzi, & Larsson, 2017; Krämer, 2017). It is the importance of these networks and the interpersonal communication occurring on them that may partially explain the effects of neighborhood contexts on voting for right-wing populist parties (Berning, Evans, Gould, Harteveld, & Ivaldi, 2018). Because of the mediated character of social information, actual real-world conditions may diverge from how political actors or the media portray them, and due to media and communication effects, perceptions and evaluations of the economy, elites, or other groups may consequently diverge from the facts as well (e.g., Atwell Seate & Mastro, 2016; Bisgaard & Slothuus, 2018; Lischka, 2015; see also Cacciatore et al., 2014). The multi-level model, then, highlights the fact that citizens may be faced with or look for populist appeals and framing in various mediated and non-mediated contexts and in a variety of national and regional set- Carsten Reinemann 220 tings. This variety is also reflected in the empirical analyses that try to determine the effects of populist appeals. The spectrum of independent variables ranges from real, direct appeals of populist party advertising (e.g, Schmuck & Matthes, 2017) and real media coverage of populist actors and parties (e.g., Berning, Lubbers & Schlueter, 2019) to made-up content in which populist appeals come from non-political actors (e.g., Andreadis et al., 2019). On the one hand, this model is an advantage because processes and mechanisms can be cross-validated across different kinds of stimuli. On the other hand, this model poses a risk because the comparability of findings may be jeopardized—to say nothing of the problem that the definitions of populism, populist framing, and populist appeals may still vary. In terms of design, research has taken a huge step forward in recent years, and our knowledge of populist communication effects now comes from a range of studies, including combinations of longitudinal content analysis and panel surveys (e.g., Berning, Lubbers, & Schlueter, 2019) as well as large-scale cross-country experiments (e.g., Hameleers, Andreadis, & Reinemann, 2019). Studies have also started to integrate macro- and micro-level variables into their investigations of populist communication effects (e.g., Hameleers et al., 2018), and although most studies examine the effects of the specific individual elements of populist communication (e.g., blame attribution, stereotyping), other studies investigate the potential effects of combining those appeals (e.g., Andreadis et al., 2018). Furthermore, researchers do not only consider effects among the general population but also take specific groups into account, like young people or immigrants (e.g., Schmuck, Matthes, & Paul, 2017). Finally, researchers have also begun to not only investigate populist messages from the perspective of their effectiveness but to also dig into the mechanisms of what kinds of messages and strategies might reduce support for populism (van Spanje & Azrout, 2018; van Spanje & de Graaf, 2018). An Individual-Level Model of Populist Communication Effects When focusing on the various paths in the multi-level model, researchers often need more specific models to identify the concepts necessary to investigate and explain the related processes. For example, scholars will need concepts from journalism studies to explain how the media select and frame populist messages in their coverage, and they will need concepts from audience and effects studies to explain how citizens select and process populist messages and the effects thereof. Very recently, Hameleers et al. (2019) have suggested a model that identifies citizen predispositions that 4. The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens 221 are particularly related to populism; relevant message characteristics (described above); the psychological mechanisms that come into play; and various kinds of emotional, cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral effects populist communication may cause. Theoretically, the model integrates research from various concepts, including selective exposure, motivated reasoning, social identity, cognitive priming, stereotyping, and blame attribution (Figure 2).   An individual-level model of populist communication effects (based on Hameleers et al., 2019) Predispositions The model starts with citizen predispositions, as research has shown time and again that a compatibility of recipients’ predispositions with sources, messages, and issue-contexts is crucial to the selection, processing, and effects processes of communication. This is also true in the context of populism: demographic factors, relative deprivation, in-group attachment, populist attitudes, and the informational and media ecology of citizens have been shown to be the most important—at least in the European context, where most of the quantitative studies reviewed here originate (e.g., Hameleers et al., 2019). In terms of demographics, citizens most affected by modernization and globalization are especially susceptible to populist messages (e.g., Kübler & Kriesi, 2017; Rodrik, 2018), but the interaction between real-world situations, populist message supply, and voting may be rather complex (e.g., Figure 2. 5. Carsten Reinemann 222 Rooduijn, M., & Burgoon, B., 2018). Generally, less-educated citizens who perceive themselves (often accurately) as particularly vulnerable to economic and cultural change are strongly attracted to populist narratives (Matthes & Schmuck, 2017; Schmuck & Matthes, 2017). As far as their economic situation is concerned, findings for Europe do not suggest that populist voters are generally less well off than the voters of other parties; instead, they seem to be afraid of future losses, in both economic and cultural terms (e.g., Rooduijn, 2017; Rooduijn & Burgoon, 2018). This fits well with findings showing that perceptions of relative deprivation, which often go along with such fears, also provide fertile ground for populist appeals (e.g., Gest, Reny, & Mayer, 2018; Spruyt, Keppens, & van Droogenbroeck, 2016). Relative deprivation describes the belief that others are favored and better off, which ties in well with anti-elite narratives arguing that the elites prioritize the needs of out-groups at the expense of native and/or ‘ordinary’ people (e.g., Hameleers, Bos, & de Vreese, 2017a; Kriesi et al., 2006; Kübler & Kriesi, 2017; Rodrik, 2018). Research has shown that citizens feeling relative deprivation are especially likely to select messages that use populist blame-framing (Hameleers, Bos, & de Vreese, 2018), and a recent largescale internationally comparative experiment has provided evidence that the level of relative deprivation decisively influences how persuasive populist appeals are (Bos et al., 2019). Moreover, the populist focus on the ingroup is more successful among people who feel closely attached to this group—for example, those who have a strong affiliation with their country or ethnicity (Hameleers, Bos, & de Vreese, 2017a). Demographic characteristics and their ensuing experiences may also strengthen populist attitudes, which in and of themselves make it more likely for citizens to be attracted to populist narratives and framing, along with the media outlets carrying these messages (Castanho, Jungkunz, Helbling, & Littvay, 2019). In fact, citizens with stronger populist attitudes tend to more often trust and use news media that are themselves more populist in their content and style (e.g., Fawzi, 2019; Hameleers, Bos, & de Vreese, 2017b; 2017b; Schulz, 2019). At the same time, these citizens also tend to regard mainstream media as hostile towards their own views (Schulz, Wirth, & Müller, 2018). Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that people who are already politically cynical (Bos, van der Brug, & de Vreese, 2013) and hold populist attitudes seem to be most susceptible to populist appeals (e.g., Müller et al., 2017). The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens 223 Mechanisms Although populist communication is often considered to be particularly effective, the literature lacks detailed conceptualizations of the inner workings of its effects. Hameleers et al. (2019) have only recently developed an elaborate model based on the idea that populist messaging is a kind of social identity framing. They argue that a combination of cognitive priming, stereotyping, and blame attributions dominates the processing of populist messages. First, populist messages trigger cognitive priming, making in-group cognitions and attachments more salient and increasing the likelihood that these cognitions and attachments influence further information processing and decision-making. Second, populist messages can activate and strengthen both positive in-group and negative out-group stereotypes, growing the perceived distance between the recipient and the out-group (e.g., Matthes & Schmuck, 2017). Third, populist blaming of elites and out-groups impact how citizens attribute blame, which is critically important to how citizens perceive politics (e.g., Hobolt & Tilley, 2014; Marsh & Tilley, 2010; Tilley & Hobolt, 2011). Types of Effects On the individual level, scholars typically recognize cognitive, emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral communication effects. These may trigger further micro-level effects among fellow citizens (e.g., via political talk) or may cause effects on the meso- or even macro-levels of society, when the news or political parties react to changing attitudes, protests, polls, or voting behavior. For example, populist messages blaming elites may motivate citizens to protest against ‘the establishment’. This may have further consequences by affecting other citizens’ perceptions of the legitimacy of governing parties, influencing news media coverage, and causing parties and their members to change policy proposals or even resign. In terms of cognitive effects, populist communication may affect perceptions of the state of the country, the functioning of politics, the opinion climate, potential in-group threat, one’s own position in society (relative deprivation), and perceptions of political self-efficacy (e.g., Hameleers et al., 2018; Krämer, 2014; Reinemann et al., 2017a; Schulz, Wirth, & Müller, 2018). Although only some of these effects have been investigated specifically in relation to populist messaging, they can be seen as crucial to explaining the success of populist communication, because crisis perceptions 6. 7. Carsten Reinemann 224 provide the very basis for blame attributions and eliciting negative emotions towards out-groups, thereby providing the necessary motivation for action and voting behavior (e.g. Rico, Guinjoan, & Anduiza, 2017). In terms of emotional effects, populist communication may lead to anxiety and fear by portraying a situation as an almost hopeless crisis. In addition, out-group blaming may elicit negative intergroup emotions like anger and fear (e.g., van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears, 2008). However, despite their presumed importance, emotions have largely been neglected in quantitative empirical studies of the effects of populist communication. One exception is a recent study by Wirz (2018), who provides evidence that populist cues cause emotional responses that drive the persuasiveness of populist appeals (Wirz, 2018; see also Wirz et al., 2018). At the same time, we are not aware of studies that have tried to examine the question of whether populist communication may also generate positive feelings of pride, joy, hope, or satisfaction among citizens who have felt overlooked and now feel that their voices are heard and their sentiments are shared by others (e.g., Taggart, 2000). In terms of attitudinal effects, research has already demonstrated negative effects on stereotypes and blame attributions—which can be seen as attitudes, due to their evaluative character—for immigrants, Muslims, and the wealthy (e.g., Corbu et al., 2019; Hameleers et al., 2018; Schmuck & Matthes, 2017a; Schmuck, Matthes & Paul, 2017). At the same time, positive portrayals of the in-group may have a positive effect on the image of one’s in-group and may foster in-group attachment (Hobolt & Tilley, 2014; Krämer, 2014). In addition, several recent studies have shown that populist attitudes are not only an important prerequisite for effective populist narratives, but that they are also affected by those messages (e.g., Andreadis, Cremonesi, Kartsounidou, Kasprowicz, & Hess, 2019). In terms of behavioral effects, recent research has provided some evidence that populist social identity framing and resulting perceptions of threats to the in-group can mobilize citizens to political action (e.g., Bos et al., 2019; Hameleers et al., 2018b; also Hameleers et al., 2019). In addition, media use is also likely to be affected, with citizens using attitude-consistent sources such as tabloids or alternative media (e.g., Fawzi, 2018). Moreover, populist blame-framing may suggest that removing the ruling elites may be necessary, increasing the likelihood of citizens voting for populist parties (e.g., Andreadis et al., 2019; Hameleers, Bos, & de Vreese, 2017c). Finally, studies show that the visibility of populist parties and their issues in the news media increases support for them—but these effects, important as they may be, are probably not specific to populist parties (e.g., Berning, The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens 225 Lubbers & Schlueter, 2018; Bos, Lefevere, Thijssen & Sheets, 2017; Vliegenthart, Boomgarden & van Spanje, 2015). Conclusion This chapter reviewed theory and empirical findings regarding the circumstances and mechanisms through which citizens may be affected and persuaded by populist communication. After defining populist communication and its elements, a multi-level model (Reinemann et al., 2017) and an individual-level model (Hameleers et al., 2019) of populist communication effects were discussed, together with the empirical evidence that gives credence to the claims made in recent theoretical accounts. All in all, recent studies show that the degree and types of individuallevel effects of populist frames and messages depend heavily on both the (national) context in which they are situated and on the predispositions of audience members. Not everyone is easily swayed by populist appeals, as no populist communication is universally effective. Instead, its effects are conditional upon the audience it encounters and where this audience is located (e.g., de Vreese, Reinemann, Stanyer, Esser, & Aalberg, 2019). Findings suggest that populist messages are most effective with citizens whose experiences and predispositions neatly fit into populist narratives. To put it differently, especially in times of crisis and social change, populist communication manages to switch the focus of attention, to center in-group sentiments, and to capitalize on the human tendency to look for someone else to blame. However, because of their controversial character and their strong reliance on intergroup blaming and emotions, populist narratives may also cause strong boomerang or backfire effects among citizens holding opposing views. This co-occurrence of persuasive and backfire effects may be a key problem to populist communication, as it results in increased political polarization, which runs counter to the idea of democratic consensus building (e.g., Stroud, 2010; Hameleers & Schmuck, 2017; Hameleers, Bos, & de Vreese, 2018; Müller et al., 2017). The discussion of the evidence made it clear that predispositions become relevant in the phase of media and message selection; they make it more likely that people encounter or turn to populist messaging in the first place. Some scholars argue that the processes used by populist messages to affect political attitudes primarily rely on trait activation or schema theory (e.g., Hameleers et al., 2019). This means that even though persuasive effects may be relevant, citizens’ populist attitudes, negative 8. Carsten Reinemann 226 stereotypes, or political participation are not necessarily created by populist messaging but are rather primed and activated by those messages. Another factor to be considered is the resonance of populist communication with real-life opportunity structures. On the macro level, for example, this suggests that populist communication blaming economic elites should have the strongest effects in countries where an economic crisis is looming; populist communication blaming immigrants should have the strongest effects in countries struggling with migration; and where populist parties hold a strong presence in public discourse, populist narratives and positions may be normalized, reducing boomerang effects and giving legitimacy to populist positions. In such countries, populist messages may more easily activate schemata of populist framing. However, the connection between national, real-world situations and populist strategies is not always easy and straightforward. For example, populists may be able to invoke fears of certain out-groups in countries where these groups are not even present, by citing the example of other countries (e.g., in Poland or Hungary). At the same time, due to their specific political cultures, some countries may be more resistant to certain kinds of populism, even if realworld situations may indicate otherwise (e.g., Portugal in the economic crisis). This points to the importance of refraining from over-generalizing across countries and of taking national contexts seriously. Finally, obvious gaps still remain in our knowledge of the effects of populist communication. For example, the long-term, cumulative impact of populist narratives on social norms and values and on the cohesion of society have not been much investigated. To be sure, recent studies point to the dangers of political polarization that come with sometimes extreme forms of out-group blame and fear appeals (e.g., Müller et al., 2017). The more negatively the situation is portrayed, and the fiercer the attacks on elites, and the darker the picture painted of out-groups, the harder it may be to reconcile populist and non-populist narratives and positions. As the current situations in the United States and elsewhere show, this kind of polarization can develop into an existential threat to democratic policy-making and to the unity of a nation (e.g., Benkler, Faris, & Roberts, 2018). Hopefully, understanding the mechanisms of populist communication effects can help to counter this threat before it is too late. The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens 227 References Aalberg, T., Esser, F., Reinemann, C., Strömbäck, J., & de Vreese, C. H. (Eds.). (2017). Populist political communication in Europe. London: Routledge. Abts, K., & Rummens, S. (2007). Populism versus democracy. Political Studies, 55, 405–424. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.2007.00657.x Andreadis, I., Cremonesi, C., Kartsounidou, E., Kasprowicz, D., & Hess, A. (2019). Attitudinal and behavioral responses to populist communication. The impact of populist message elements on populist attitudes and voting intentions. In C. Reinemann, J. Stanyer, T. Aalberg, F. Esser & C. H. de Vreese (Eds.), Communicating populism. Comparing actor perceptions, media coverage, and effects on citizens in Europe (pp. 207-232). New York: Routledge. Atwell Seate, A., & Mastro, D. (2016). Media’s influence on immigration attitudes: An intergroup threat theory approach. Communication Monographs, 83, 194–213. doi:10.1080/03637751.2015.1068433 Becker, S. O., Fetzer, T., & Novy, D. (2016). Who voted for Brexit? A comprehensive district-level analysis. Economic Policy, 32, 601–650. doi:10.1093/epolic/eix012 Berning, C. C., & Schlueter, E. (2016). The dynamics of radical right-wing populist party preferences and perceived group threat: A comparative panel analysis of three competing hypotheses in the Netherlands and Germany. Social Science Research, 55, 83–93. Berning, C., Evans, J., Gould, M., Harteveld, E., & Ivaldi, G. (2018). Assessing the effect of neighbourhood context on populist radical right voting: a four-country comparison of France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. Paper prepared for ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, 23-25 August 2018. Berning, C. C., Lubbers, M., & Schlueter, E. (2018). Media attention and radical right-wing populist party sympathy: Longitudinal evidence from the Netherlands. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 31, 93–120. doi: org/10.10 93/ijpor/edy001 Bisgaard, M., & Sloothuus, R. (2018). Partisan elites as culprits? How party cues shape partisan perceptual gaps. American Journal of Political Science, 62, 456–469. doi:10.1111/ajps.12349 Bos, L., Schemer, C., Corbu, N., Hameleers, M., Andreadis, I., Schulz, A., Reinemann, C., Fawzi, N. (2019). The effects of populism as a social identity frame on persuasion and mobilisation: Evidence from a 15-country experiment. European Journal of Political Research. doi: Bos, L., Van Der Brug, W., & de Vreese, C. H. (2013). An experimental test of the impact of style and rhetoric on the perception of right-wing populist and mainstream party leaders. Acta Politica, 48, 192–208. doi:10.1057/ap.2012.27 Cacciatore, M. A., Yeo, S. K., Scheufele, D. A., Xenos, M A., Choi, D., Brossard, D.,... Corley, E. A. (2014). Misperceptions in polarized politics: The role of knowledge, religiosity, and media. PS: Political Science & Politics, 47, 654–661. doi:10.1017/S1049096514000791 Carsten Reinemann 228 Castanho Silva, B., Jungkunz, S., Helbling, M., & Littvay, L. (2019). An empirical comparison of seven populist attitudes scales. Political Research Quarterly. doi: 10.1177/1065912919833176 Corbu, N., Bos, L., Schemer, C., Schulz, A., Matthes, J., de Vreese, C., Aalberg, T., & Suiter, J. (2019). Cognitive responses to populist communication: The impact of populist message elements on blame attribution and stereotyping. In C. Reinemann, J. Stanyer, T. Aalberg, F. Esser, & C. de Vreese (Eds.), Communicating populism. Comparing actor perceptions, media coverage, and effects on citizens in Europe (pp. 183-206). New York: Routledge. de Vreese, C. H., Esser, F., Aalberg, T., Reinemann, C., & Stanyer, J. (2018). Populism as an expression of political communication content and style: A new perspective. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 23, 423–438. 1177/1940161218790035 de Vreese, C. H., Reinemann, C., Stanyer, J., Esser, F., & Aalberg, T. (2018). Adapting to the different shades of populism. Key findings and implications for media, citizens, and politics. In C. Reinemann, J. Stanyer, T. Aalberg, F. Esser, & C. de Vreese (Eds.), Communicating populism. Comparing actor perceptions, media coverage, and effects on citizens in Europe (pp. 235-252). New York: Routledge. Elchardus, M., & Spruyt, B. (2016). Populism, persistent republicanism and declinism: An empirical analysis of populism as a thin ideology. Government and Opposition, 51, 111–133. doi:10.1017/gov.2014.27 Engesser, S., Fawzi, N., & Larsson, A. O. (2017). Populist online communication: Introduction to the Special Issue. Information, Communication and Society, 20, 1279–1292. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2017.1328525 Esser, F., Stepinska, A., & Hopmann, D. N. (2016). Populism and the media. Crossnational findings and perspectives. In T. Aalberg, F. Esser, C. Reinemann, J. Strömbäck & C. d. Vreese (Eds.), Populist political communication in Europe (pp. 365-380). London: Routledge. Fawzi, N. (2019). Untrustworthy news and the media as ‘enemy of the people?’ How a populist worldview shapes recipients’ attitudes toward the media. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 24, 146–164. doi:10.1177/1940161218811981 Gest, J., Reny, T., & Mayer, J. (2018). Roots of the radical right: Nostalgic deprivation in the United States and Britain. Comparative Political Studies, 51, 1694– 1719. doi:10.1177/0010414017720705 Hameleers, M., Andreadis, I., & Reinemann, C. (2019). Investigating the effects of populist communication: Design and measurement of the comparative experimental study. In C. Reinemann, J. Stanyer, T. Aalberg, F. Esser & C. de Vreese (Eds.). Communicating populism. Comparing actor perceptions, media coverage, and effects on citizens in Europe (pp. 168-182). New York: Routledge. Hameleers, M., Bos, L., & de Vreese, C. H. (2017a). ‘They did it’: The effects of emotionalized blame attribution in populist communication. Communication Research, 44, 870–900. doi:10.1177/0093650216644026 Hameleers, M., Bos, L., & de Vreese, C. H. (2017b). The appeal of media populism: The media preferences of citizens with populist attitudes. Mass Communication and Society, 20, 481–504. doi:10.1080/15205436.2017.1291817 The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens 229 Hameleers, M., Bos, L., & de Vreese, C. H. (2017c). Framing blame: Toward a better understanding of the effects of populist communication on populist party preferences. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 28, 380–398. doi:10.1080/17457289.2017.1407326 Hameleers, M., Bos, L., & de Vreese, C. H. (2018). Selective exposure to populist communication: How attitudinal congruence drives the effects of populist attributions of blame. Journal of Communication, 68, 51–74. doi:10.1093/joc/jqx001 Hameleers, M., Bos, L., Fawzi, N., Reinemann, C., Andreadis, I., Corbu, N., Schemer, C., Schulz, A., Shaefer, T., Aalberg, T., Axelsson, S., Berganza, R., Cremonesi, C., Dahlberg, S., de Vreese, C.H., Hess, A., Kartsounidou, E., Kasprowicz, D., Matthes, J., Negrea-Busuioc, E., Ringdal, S., Salgado, S., Sanders, K., Schmuck, D., Stromback, J., Suiter, J., Boomgaarden, H., Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K., & Weiss-Yaniv, N. (2018b). Start spreading the news: A comparative experiment on the effects of populist communication on political engagement in sixteen European countries. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 23, 517–538. doi:10.1177/1940161218786786 Hameleers, M., Reinemann, C., Schmuck, D., & Fawzi, N. (2019). The persuasiveness of populist communication: Conceptualizing the effects and political consequences of populist communication from a social identity perspective. In C. Reinemann, J. Stanyer, T. Aalberg, F. Esser & C. H. de Vreese (Eds.), Communicating populism: Comparing actor perceptions, media coverage, and effects on citizens in Europe (pp. 143-167). New York: Routledge. Hameleers, M., & Schmuck, D. (2017). It’s us against them: a comparative experiment on the effects of populist messages communicated via social media. Information, Communication & Society, 20, 1425–1444. doi: 10.1080/1369118X.2017.1 328523 Hobolt, S. B., & Tilley, J. (2014). Who’s in charge? How voters attribute responsibility in the European Union. Comparative Political Studies, 47, 795–819. doi:10.1177/0010414013488549 Jagers, J., & Walgrave, S. (2007). Populism as political communication style: An empirical study of political parties’ discourse in Belgium. European Journal of Political Research, 46, 319–345. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6765.2006.00690.x Koch, T. & Zerback, T. (2013). Helpful or harmful. How frequent repetition affects perceived statement credibility. Journal of Communication, 63(6), 993-1010. doi: 10.1111/jcom.12063 Krämer, B. (2014). Media populism: A conceptual clarification and some theses on its effects. Communication Theory, 24, 42–60. doi:10.1111/comt.12029 Krämer, B. (2017). Populist online practices. The function of the Internet in rightwing populism. Information, Communication & Society, 20, 1293–1309. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2017.1328520 Krämer, B. (2018). Populism, media, and the form of society. Communication Theory, 28, 444–465. Kübler, D., & Kriesi, H. (2017). How globalisation and mediatisation challenge our democracies. Swiss Political Science Review, 23, 231–245. doi:10.1111/spsr.12265 Laclau, E. (2005). On populist reason. London: Verso. Carsten Reinemann 230 Lischka, J. A. (2015). What follows what? Relations between economic indicators, economic expectations of the public, and news on the general economy and unemployment in Germany, 2002–2011. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 92, 374–398. doi:10.1177/1077699015574098 Lucassen, G., & Lubbers, M. (2012). Who fears what? Explaining far-right-wing preference in Europe by distinguishing perceived cultural and economic ethnic threats. Comparative Political Studies, 45, 547–574. doi:10.1177/00104140114278 51 Marsh, M., & Tilley, J. (2010). The attribution of credit and blame to governments and its impact on vote choice. British Journal of Political Science, 40, 115–134. doi:10.1017/S0007123409990275 Matthes, J., & Schmuck, D. (2017). The effects of anti-immigrant right-wing populist ads on implicit and explicit attitudes: A moderated mediation model. Communication Research, 44(4), 556–581. doi:10.1177/0093650215577859 Maurer, P., Hubé N., Stetka, V., Cremonesi, C.,... Esser, F. (2019). Journalistic culture, editorial mission, and news logic: Explaining the factors behind the use of populism in European media. In C. Reinemann, J. Stanyer, T. Aalberg, F. Esser, & C. H. de Vreese (Eds.), Communicating populism: Comparing actor perceptions, media coverage, and effects on citizens in Europe (pp.102-122). New York: Routledge. Mazzoleni, G., Stewart, J., & Horsfield, B. (2003). The media and neo-populism: A Contemporary comparative analysis. Westport, CT: Praeger. Mény, Y., & Surel, Y. (2002b). The constitutive ambiguity of populism. In Y. Mény & Y. Surel (Eds.), Democracies and the populist challenge (pp. 1-21). New York: Palgrave. Minkenberg, M. (2017). The radical right in Eastern Europe: Democracy under siege? New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Moffitt, B. (2016). The global rise of populism: Performance, political style, and representation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Moffitt, B., & Tormey, S. (2014). Rethinking populism: Politics, mediatisation and political style. Political Studies, 62, 381–397. doi:10.1111/1467-9248.12032 Mudde, C. (2004). The populist Zeitgeist. Government and Opposition, 39, 541–563. Mudde, C., & Rovira Kaltwasser, C. (2017). Populism: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Müller, P., Schemer, C., Wettstein, M., Schulz, A., Wirz, D. S., Engesser, S., & Wirth, W. (2017). The polarizing impact of news coverage on populist attitudes in the public: Evidence from a panel study in four European democracies. Journal of Communication, 67, 968–992. doi:10.1093/ijpor/edw037 Otjes, S., Ivaldi, G., Jupskas, A. R., & Mazzoleni, O. (2018). It’s not economic interventionism, stupid! Reassessing the political economy of radical right-wing populist parties. Swiss Political Science Review. doi:10.1111/spsr.12302 The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens 231 Reinemann, C., Aalberg, T., Esser, F., Strömbäck, J., & de Vreese, C. H. (2017a). Populist political communication: Toward a model of its causes, forms, and effects. In T. Aalberg, F. Esser, C. Reinemann, J. Strömbäck & C. H. de Vreese (Eds.), Populist political communication in Europe (pp. 12–28). New York: Routledge. Reinemann, C., Matthes, J., Shaefer, T. (2017b). Citizens and populist political communication: Cross-national findings and perspectives. In T. Aalberg, F. Esser, C. Reinemann, J. Strömbäck & C. H. de Vreese (Eds.), Populist political communication in Europe (pp. 381–394). New York: Routledge. Reinemann, C., Stanyer, J., Aalberg, T., Esser, F., & de Vreese, C. H. (2019b). Introduction: Comprehending and investigating populist communication from a comparative perspective. Communicating populism. Comparing actor perceptions, media coverage, and effects on citizens in Europe (pp. 1-14). New York: Routledge. Rico, G., Guinjoan, M., & Anduiza, E. (2017). The emotional underpinnings of populism: How anger and fear affect populist attitudes. Swiss Political Science Review, 23, 444–461. 10.1111/spsr.12261. Rodrik, D. (2018). Populism and the economics of Globalization. Journal of International Business Policy, 1, 12–33. doi:10.1057/s42214-018-0001-4 Rooduijn, M. (2018). What unites the voter bases of populist parties? Comparing the electorates of 15 populist parties. European Political Science Review, 10, 351-368. doi:10.1017/S1755773917000145 Rooduijn, M. (2019). State of the field: How to study populism and adjacent topics? A plea for both more and less focus. European Journal of Political Research, 58, 362–372. doi:10.1111/1475-6765.12314. Rooduijn, M., & Burgoon, B. (2018). The paradox of well-being: Do unfavorable socioeconomic and sociocultural contexts deepen or dampen radical left and right voting among the less well-off? Comparative Political Studies, 51(, 1720– 1753. doi:10.1177/0010414017720707 Schmuck, D., & Matthes, J. (2017). Effects of economic and symbolic threat appeals in right-wing populist advertising on anti-immigrant attitudes: The impact of textual and visual appeals. Political Communication, 34(4), 607–626. doi:10.108 0/10584609.2017.1316807 Schmuck, D., Matthes, J., & Paul, F. (2017). Negative stereotypical portrayals of Muslims in right-wing populist campaigns: Perceived discrimination, social identity threats, and hostility among young Muslim adults. Journal of Communication, 67, 610–634. doi:10.1111/jcom.12313 Schulz, A. (2019). Where populist citizens get the news: An investigation of news audience polarization along populist attitudes in 11 countries. Communication Monographs, 86, 88–111. doi: 10.1080/03637751.2018.1508876 Schulz, A., Wirth, W., & Müller, P. (2018). We are the people and you are fake news: A social identity approach to populist citizens’ false consensus and hostile media perceptions. Communication Research. doi: 10.1177/0093650218794854 Sengul, K. (2019). Populism, democracy, political style and post-truth: issues for communication research. Communication Research and Practice, 5, 88–101. doi: 10.1080/22041451.2019.1561399 Carsten Reinemann 232 Spruyt, B., Keppens, G., & van Droogenbroeck, F. (2016). Who supports populism and what attracts people to it? Political Research Quarterly, 69, 335–346. doi:10.1177/1065912916639138 Stroud, N. J. (2010). Polarization and partisan selective exposure. Journal of Communication, 60, 556–576. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2010.01497.x Taggart, P. (2000): Populism: Concepts in the social sciences. Buckingham: Open University Press. Taggart, P. (2004). Populism and representative politics in contemporary Europa. Journal of Political Ideologies, 9, 269–288. Tilley, J., & Hobolt, S. B. (2011). Is the government to blame? An experimental test of how partisanship shapes perceptions of performance and responsibility. The Journal of Politics, 73, 316–330. doi:10.1017/S0022381611000168 Van Kessel, S. (2013). A matter of supply and demand: The electoral performance of populist parties in three European countries. Government and Opposition, 48, 175–199. doi:10.1017/gov.2012.14 Van Hauwaert, S. M., & van Kessel, S. (2018). Beyond protest and discontent: A cross-national analysis of the effect of populist attitudes and issue positions on populist party support. European Journal of Political Research, 57, 68–92. doi:10.1111/1475-6765.12216 Van Spanje, J., & Azrout, R. (2019). Tainted love: How stigmatization of a political party in news media reduces its electoral support. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 31, 283–308. doi: 10.1093/ijpor/edy009 Van Spanje, J., & de Graaf, N. D. (2018). How established parties reduce other parties’ electoral support: The strategy of parroting the pariah. West European Politics, 41, 1–27. doi: 10.1080/01402382.2017.1332328 Van Zomeren, M., Postmes, T., & Spears, R. (2008). Toward an integrative social identity model of collective action: A quantitative research synthesis of three socio-psychological perspectives. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 504–535. doi:10.1037/0 033-2909.134.4.504 Vliegenthart, R., Boomgaarden, H. G., & Van Spanje, J. (2012). Anti-immigrant party support and media visibility: A cross-party, over-time perspective. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 22, 315–358, doi: 10.1080/17457289.2012. 693933 Wirz, D. S. (2018). Persuasion through emotion? An experimental test of the emotion-eliciting nature of populist communication. International Journal of Communication, 12, 1114–1138. Wirz, D. S., Wettstein, M., Schulz, A., Müller, P., Schemer, C., Ernst, N., … Wirth, W. (2018). The effects of right-wing populist communication on emotions and cognitions toward immigrants. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 23, 496– 516. doi: 10.1177/1940161218788956 The Missing Link: Effects of Populist Communication on Citizens 233

Chapter Preview



This volume assembles a wide range of perspectives on populism and the media, bringing together various disciplinary and theoretical approaches, authors and examples from different continents and a wide range of topical issues. The chapters discuss the contexts of populist communication, communication by populist actors, different types of populist messages (populist communication in traditional and new media, populist criticism of the media, populist discourses related to different topics, etc.), the effects and consequences of populist communication, populist media policy and anti-populist discourses. The contributions synthesise existing research on this subject, propose new approaches to it or present new findings on the relationship between populism and the media. With contibutions by Caroline Avila, Eleonora Benecchi, Florin Büchel, Donatella Campus, María Esperanza Casullo, Nicoleta Corbu, Ann Crigler, Benjamin De Cleen, Sven Engesser, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser, Nayla Fawzi, Jana Goyvaerts, André Haller, Kristoffer Holt, Christina Holtz-Bacha, Marion Just, Philip Kitzberger, Magdalena Klingler, Benjamin Krämer, Katharina Lobinger, Philipp Müller, Elena Negrea-Busuioc, Carsten Reinemann, Christian Schemer, Anne Schulz, Christian Schwarzenegger, Torgeir Uberg Nærland, Rebecca Venema, Anna Wagner, Martin Wettstein, Werner Wirth, Dominique Stefanie Wirz


Der Band vereint ein breites Spektrum von Perspektiven auf das Thema Populismus und Medien. Er bringt verschiedene fachliche und theoretische Ansätze, Beitragende und Beispiele von mehreren Kontinenten und ein breites Spektrum aktueller Themen und Herausforderungen zusammen. Die Kapitel behandeln den Kontext populistischer Kommunikation, Kommunikation durch populistische Akteure, verschiedene Typen populistischer Botschaften (populistische Kommunikation in traditionellen und neuen Medien, populistische Medienkritik, populistische Diskurse zu verschiedenen Themen), Wirkungen und Konsequenzen populistischer Kommunikation, populistische Medienpolitik, aber auch antipopulistische Diskurse. Die Beiträge systematisieren vorhandene Forschung, schlagen neue Ansätze vor oder präsentieren neue Befunde zum Verhältnis von Populismus und Medien. Mit Beiträgen von Caroline Avila, Eleonora Benecchi, Florin Büchel, Donatella Campus, María Esperanza Casullo, Nicoleta Corbu, Ann Crigler, Benjamin De Cleen, Sven Engesser, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser, Nayla Fawzi, Jana Goyvaerts, André Haller, Kristoffer Holt, Christina Holtz-Bacha, Marion Just, Philip Kitzberger, Magdalena Klingler, Benjamin Krämer, Katharina Lobinger, Philipp Müller, Elena Negrea-Busuioc, Carsten Reinemann, Christian Schemer, Anne Schulz, Christian Schwarzenegger, Torgeir Uberg Nærland, Rebecca Venema, Anna Wagner, Martin Wettstein, Werner Wirth, Dominique Stefanie Wirz