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Social media populism: features and ‘likeability’ of Lega Nord communication on Facebook

Abstract

Social media have changed the way politicians communicate with and relate to their constituencies during election campaigns and routine periods alike. Many scholars have postulated that populists would benefit most from the new digital media. Despite their growing importance, few studies have addressed the features of online populist communication and how to assess its success. The purpose of this article is to fill this gap by providing a framework for the analysis of populist communication on social media. Taking the case of Italy’s Lega Nord (Northern League (LN)) as an example, the article will clarify which aspects of online communication are most valued by LN supporters, in relation to both the key elements of populism (references to ‘the people’, ‘elites’ and ‘others’) and the expression of an emotional style in the messages. The article analyses the controlled communication that LN and its leader, Matteo Salvini, published on their Facebook profiles during a sample period of 30 days. Our findings demonstrate that populism, emotional style and, in general, the role of the leader as a source of communication positively affect the ‘likeability’ of a message.

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Correspondence to Giuliano Bobba.

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Bobba, G. Social media populism: features and ‘likeability’ of Lega Nord communication on Facebook. Eur Polit Sci 18, 11–23 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-017-0141-8

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Keywords

  • Social media
  • Political communication
  • Populism
  • Northern league