Acta Politica

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 111–131 | Cite as

Thrown around with abandon? Popular understandings of populism as conveyed by the print media: A UK case study

  • Tim Bale
  • Stijn van KesselEmail author
  • Paul Taggart
Original Article


This article examines the use of the term ‘populism’ in the UK print media and compares this with the scholarly usage. It assesses whether there is truth in the claim that the media uses the term too freely and imprecisely. Our finding indicate that populism is used for a wide range of seemingly unrelated actors across the world, that it is hard to find any logic in the set of policies that are associated with the term, and that populism is, more or less explicitly, regularly used in a pejorative way. Despite these findings, we refrain from labelling populism a useless term. We will, however, indicate that the inconsistent vernacular use of the term complicates a meaningful academic debate about the concept.


populism media United Kingdom 



The authors would like to thank Carlo Ruzza, Jens Rydgren, Stefan Rummens and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and Contemporary European StudiesFriston 245, University of SussexBrightonUK

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