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IP 10: Populist strategies in current election campaigns

This project deals with the populist strategies used by political actors in the framework of current electoral campaigns at the national level by focusing on western European countries. It aims to study the conditions that lead parties and candidates to resort to specific kinds of populism. To this end, it will rely on campaign documents produced by political actors (such as press releases and public speeches) and on mass-media coverage. The project focuses on the following research questions:

  • To what extent do political parties resort to specific kinds of populism? What do these populist appeals consist of and do they differ between parties from the left and right?
  • Do populist parties address issues on which they have an advantage in terms of public opinion?
  • Are populist messages used by political actors more likely to pass the mass media’s selection hurdle?
  • With what complexity do political actors present issues to the public; do populists rely on fewer dimensions than other political actors?

Although the study of populism is an essential component of political science, the current literature largely neglects the fact that populism can take several forms. While any kind of populism is characterized by people-centrism and anti-elitism, populism can be understood in very different ways. By comparatively studying populist strategies in elections in several countries, this project breaks new ground.

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Project leaders:
Dr. Laurent Bernhard, University of Zurich
Prof. Marco Steenbergen, University of Zurich

Project associate:
Prof. Regula Hänggli, University of Freiburg

PhD students:
Caroline Dalmus, University of Freiburg
Edward Weber, University of Zurich