About the Working Groups

Working Group 1: Populist actors as communicators

While there is plenty of research on political populism, there is only limited research on populist actors as communicators and what differences there are between populist and other political actors with respect to their communication strategies, tactics, styles and rhetoric. Working Group 1 therefore seeks to address questions such as: is there a specific and unique style of communication that can be defined as populist? Are there unique communication strategies and tactics that distinguish populist parties from mainstream parties? Are there systematic differences in the style of language used by mainstream parties and by right-wing and left-wing populist parties? Do populist and non-populist parties use different styles, strategies and language when approaching different media? Do leaders of parties identified as populist differ in terms of charisma and their communication skills from leaders of other parties?  How can populist communication strategies, tactics, styles and rhetoric be investigated in an internationally comparative way?

Working Group 2: The media and populism

This working group is specifically concerned with populist messages, distributed either by means of mass communication or mass self-communication. The questions addressed in this working group include: How do populist actors and their communicative strategies resonate with the news media? What are typical content features in media discourse on populism? How do individual media outlets deal with populist discourse? Do they tend to passively convey it, actively engage in it or try to critically deconstruct it? How can we explain differences between countries, types of media organizations and individual outlets? How do populist actors and communications resonate in non-journalistic online-media like blogs and social networks? What are the reasons for differences in the resonance of populist communications in citizen online-discourse? Do we find a decoupling of online- vs. offline media, and versus journalistic vs. citizen discourse as indicated by the varying presence of populist actors and communications?

Working Group 3: Citizens and populism

Among the questions this COST Action addresses, individual-level communicative effects of populist messages have been studied the least. Working Group 3 will therefore focus on these effects that may regard, for example, political knowledge and perceptions of social reality, social identity, attitudes towards minorities, trust in democratic institutions, participation in politics, and political preferences (voting). To investigate these effects, Working Group 3 plans to answer the following questions: What are the key elements of populist communication that can trigger effects processes? What theoretical concepts can be used to conceptualize those effects? What kinds of individual predispositions can help to explain the differential processing and effects of such messages on citizens? How can these effects be investigated in an internationally comparative way?

Karin Ekberg