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Political social media use and its linkage to populist and postmaterialist attitudes and vote intention in the Netherlands

Abstract

This study focuses on social media use of citizens from two groups that are often associated with the rise of social media: populist and postmaterialist citizens. Considering their ideological underpinnings, we theorize that they will make more political use of social media and that this further reifies their political attitudes into voting for populist and postmaterialist parties, respectively. Using unique survey data including the relatively new populist attitudes and political use of social media, we test this theory on the Dutch case. We find that both groups do not read political news or connect to politicians more, but both are more likely to react to political content. Moreover, social media use does not seem to lead to a retention in one’s own ideological funnel signified by populist or postmaterialist voting. Among more postmaterialist citizens, passive social media use even makes it more likely to vote for other parties.

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Fig. 1

Source: LISS core study (CentERdata 2018) and Work and Politics (Lehr 2016)

Notes

  1. Both populist and postmaterialist emphasize citizen empowerment, but for postmaterialists this is a means to self-actualization (Inglehart 2008); for populists it is about keeping the corrupt elite in check (Akkerman et al. 2014).

  2. Used modules: Politics and Values and Religion and Ethnicity (waves 6–9). After matching on the LISS panel ID 132 observations were still missing and dropped.

  3. “Not one,” “Yes, a few,” “Yes, 5 or more,” “Yes, 10 or more,” “I do not have a Facebook or Twitter account.”

  4. “Never,” “Sometimes,” “Once every few weeks,” “Weekly,” “Daily”; not presented to people answering “I do not have …” on the first item, who were coded never.

  5. Voting intention was derived from the Politics and Values modules of the LISS panel.

  6. Including non-voters in the reference category did not lead to substantially different results.

  7. Factor loadings > 0.4; Cronbach’s alpha > 0.7.

  8. Models measuring populist and postmaterialist attitudes as dummies were also constructed to check for nonlinearities; where relevant this is reported in the text.

  9. Particularly so, because in the Dutch context, social media use is very widespread, making it very likely that citizens at least consume some political information via social media.

  10. Assuming average income, anti-EU and anti-immigration attitudes, age, religious attendance; being male, employed, non-politically interested, vocationally educated, non-religious.

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Correspondence to Thijmen Jeroense.

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Jeroense, T., Luimers, J., Jacobs, K. et al. Political social media use and its linkage to populist and postmaterialist attitudes and vote intention in the Netherlands. Eur Polit Sci 21, 193–215 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-020-00306-6

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Keywords

  • Attitudes
  • Populism
  • Postmaterialism
  • Social media use
  • Voting