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Start Spreading the News: A Comparative Experiment on the Effects of Populist Communication on Political Engagement in Sixteen European Countries

Journal article
Authors M. Hameleers
L. Bos
N. Fawzi
C. Reinemann
I. Andreadis
N. Corbu
C. Schemer
A. Schulz
T. Shaefer
T. Aalberg
Sofia Axelsson
R. Berganza
C. Cremonesi
Stefan Dahlberg
C. H. de Vreese
A. Hess
E. Kartsounidou
D. Kasprowicz
J. Matthes
E. Negrea-Busuioc
S. Ringdal
S. Salgado
K. Sanders
D. Schmuck
Jesper Strömbäck
J. Suiter
H. Boomgaarden
K. Tenenboim-Weinblatt
N. Weiss-Yaniv
Published in International Journal of Press-Politics
Volume 23
Issue 4
Pages 517-538
ISSN 1940-1612
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Department of Political Science
Pages 517-538
Language en
Keywords populism, populist communication, internationally comparative research, experimental research, collective identity, style, Communication, Government & Law, mocracy, p49
Subject categories Political Science


Although populist communication has become pervasive throughout Europe, many important questions on its political consequences remain unanswered. First, previous research has neglected the differential effects of populist communication on the Left and Right. Second, internationally comparative studies are missing. Finally, previous research mostly studied attitudinal outcomes, neglecting behavioral effects. To address these key issues, this paper draws on a unique, extensive, and comparative experiment in sixteen European countries (N = 15,412) to test the effects of populist communication on political engagement. The findings show that anti-elitist populism has the strongest mobilizing effects, and anti-immigrant messages have the strongest demobilizing effects. Moreover, national conditions such as the level of unemployment and the electoral success of the populist Left and Right condition the impact of populist communication. These findings provide important insights into the persuasiveness of populist messages spread throughout the European continent.

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