IP 9: A look into the black box — how populist communication strategies affect citizens' attitudes
Previous research has mainly considered populism to be people’s preference for specific parties or leaders. This project aims to integrate research from psychology, sociology, and communication- and political science in order to develop a more coherent framework of populism as an attitudinal syndrome that encompasses cognitive (e.g., anti-elitist opinions or exclusionary or simplistic views) and affective dimensions (e.g., resentment, anger, or frustration).
The first aim of the project is to study the dimensions and the prevalence of populism. It can be assumed that certain personality traits, demographic factors, or values are associated with more pronounced populist attitudes. The researchers are also interested in the influence of media opportunity structures (e.g., the commercialization of the media system), political opportunity structures (e.g., the political system), and opinion climate on the prevalence of populist attitudes among the public. A cross-national survey conducted in twelve countries will shed light on the role these factors play in populist opinions.
The project’s second goal is devoted to the forming and changing of populist attitudes. Specifically, it will examine which ingredients of populist political communication produce which cognitive and emotional effects in the public. In addition, it can be hypothesized that moderating factors (e.g., value endorsement or personality traits) make some people more susceptible to populist appeals than others. The project will rely on data from a cross-national panel from four countries and on experimental studies to investigate changes in populist attitudes.