This research project “The populist attraction: image, emotions and identities” funded by the Kone Foundation aims to increase understanding of how populist rhetoric attracts and mobilises its voters.

Previous social scientific study of populism reveals that the populism is based on affective confrontations between “us” and “them”. Basically, populism is about representations, emotions and identities. This research project aims to increase understanding about the attraction of the populism, i.e. how it appeals and mobilises supporters in the light of social psychological theory.

This project examines populism from different perspectives. First, through written and in-depth interview material the aim is to discover how those who voted or opposed populist parties explain the attraction or the repulsion of the party. Among other things, we are interested in the images of past, present and future in which people rely on while discussing about their decision about voting. Furthermore, we are interested in the emotions these images evoke and how people negotiate their identities. In addition, we will utilize a variety of materials produced by hybrid media and populist parties to examine how the populist communication is constructed in a dialogue of images, emotions and identities, and how the audience receives the populist message.

The research material of the project consists of written material, interviews, parliament discussions, multimodal campaign materials of the populist parties (such as videos and posters) and a variety of hybrid media materials from both traditional and social media, for example newspapers, television programmes, blogs by parties and politicians, and conversations from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms.