What do the People want? Analyzing Online Populist Challenges to Europe (Populism Online)


Digital media are the most important way in which populism is promoted

as they allow populist politicians, parties, and movements to bypass the

mainstream media which they perceive as biased against them. It remains

unclear, however, how widespread and impactful populist concerns are

among online audiences or the general public. In the project, digital

traces are used to (1) map what 'the people' want, (2) analyze whether

and why they want similar or different things across Europe, and (3)

investigate the effects of exposure to online populist grievances on

(offline) political outcomes. In providing answers to these questions,

the project aims at improving the understanding of the societal (macro)

and the social-psychological (micro) processes behind the rise of

populism. It is guided by the hypothesis that online populist

grievances, i.e., the communication of and exposure to populist

complaints, may constitute both a challenge and a corrective for

representative democracies and need to be examined in all their

complexity. The project focuses on countries with varying vote shares

for left- or right-wing populist parties and where populists form part

of the government (Poland and the U.S.), constitute a middle-sized block

in parliament (Germany and Sweden), are not represented in parliament

(the UK), or form a strong opposition (France, Italy, and Spain). The

research period starts in October 2018 and features at least one

election in all countries, including the European Parliament election.

The project relies on existing data to account for the context of

populism (political, economic, cultural, media systems) and generates

novel data to assess the societal embeddedness of populism.


2018-10-22 – 2022-12-31