The Rise of a Populist Zeitgeist? A Content Analysis of Populist Media Coverage in Newspapers Published between 1990 and 2017

Michael Hameleers*, Rens Vliegenthart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It has been assumed that populism has become mainstream in the Western world, and that the media have substantially contributed to populism’s success and omnipresence in politics and society. To investigate populist elements in media coverage, extant research has mainly focused on election periods, or media populism in specific types of coverage and outlets. In this paper, we investigate if the use of populist elements in general media coverage has increased over time. Focusing on a 28-year period in the Netherlands, we find clear evidence for an increasing presence of people-centric, anti-elitist and right- and left-exclusionist coverage in newspapers. This trend is general, with only limited evidence for cross-outlet differences. Since our analysis was not limited to specific periods, sample frames or topics, our research offers first evidence for an unconditional increase of different elements of populist communication in traditional news coverage. An important implication is that the rise of populist news coverage has made populism more visible to the electorate, potentially setting the agenda for political parties and populist attitudes in public opinion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-36
Number of pages18
JournalJournalism Studies
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • broadsheet newspapers
  • Computer-assisted content analysis
  • political communication
  • popular newspapers
  • populism
  • populist communication

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