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Populist and popular: an experiment on the drivers of user reactions to populist posts on Facebook


Blassnig, Sina; Wirz, Dominique S (2019). Populist and popular: an experiment on the drivers of user reactions to populist posts on Facebook. Social Media and Society, 5(4):1-12.

Abstract

Populist politicians are often associated with the successful use of social networking sites (SNS). However, it is still unclear whether the popularity of populist posts is driven by the nature of the messages, by the populist actors as the source, or by the interaction of both factors. By following a 2 × 2 experimental design ( N = 647) and by manipulating populist versus nonpopulist messages in a Facebook post and a typically populist versus mainstream politician as the source, this study contributes to the existing literature in two ways. First, it shows that both populist messages and populist actors foster the perception of a Facebook post as populist but that only populist messages are drivers of user reactions. Second, complementing content analyses on populism and user reactions, the study demonstrates that the effect of populist communication on user reactions is moderated by recipients’ populist attitudes. Users with strong populist attitudes share populist messages more often than they share nonpopulist messages.

Abstract

Populist politicians are often associated with the successful use of social networking sites (SNS). However, it is still unclear whether the popularity of populist posts is driven by the nature of the messages, by the populist actors as the source, or by the interaction of both factors. By following a 2 × 2 experimental design ( N = 647) and by manipulating populist versus nonpopulist messages in a Facebook post and a typically populist versus mainstream politician as the source, this study contributes to the existing literature in two ways. First, it shows that both populist messages and populist actors foster the perception of a Facebook post as populist but that only populist messages are drivers of user reactions. Second, complementing content analyses on populism and user reactions, the study demonstrates that the effect of populist communication on user reactions is moderated by recipients’ populist attitudes. Users with strong populist attitudes share populist messages more often than they share nonpopulist messages.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Communication and Media Research
Dewey Decimal Classification:700 Arts
Uncontrolled Keywords:Populism, social media, user reactions, schema theory
Language:English
Date:1 October 2019
Deposited On:07 Jan 2020 13:03
Last Modified:08 Jan 2020 08:38
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:2056-3051
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305119890062
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDIZCSZ0-174628
  • : Project TitleC15.0051: Populist Online Communication in Europe: Self-Presentation, Media Representation, and Audience Reconstruction of Political actors

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