The New Face of Digital Populism
“The rise of populism in Europe can be traced through online behaviour...”
Background — the new European populists
Who are the online populists?
Why do people join? By Jack Benfield, Jeff Howard and Marley Morris
Social and political views
Trust in institutions
What is the relationship between online and offline activism?
European populist groups surveyed
Populist parties and movements are now a force to be
reckoned with in many Western European countries.
These groups are known for their opposition to immigration,
their ‘anti-establishment’ views and their concern for
protecting national culture. Their rise in popularity has
gone hand-in-hand with the advent of social media, and
they are adept at using new technology to amplify their
message, recruit and organise.
The online social media following for many of these
parties dwarfs the formal membership, consisting of
tens of thousands of sympathisers and supporters. This
mélange of virtual and real political activity is the way
millions of people — especially young people — relate to
politics in the 21st century.
This is the first quantitative investigation into these
digital populists, based on over 10,000 survey responses
from 12 countries. It includes data on who they are, what
they think and what motivates them to shift from virtual
to real-world activism. It also provides new insight into
how populism — and politics and political engagement
more generally — is changing as a result of social media.
The New Face of Digital Populism calls on mainstream
politicians to respond and address concerns over
immigration and cultural identity without succumbing
to xenophobic solutions. People must be encouraged to
become actively involved in political and civic life, whatever
their political persuasion — it is important to engage and
debate forcefully with these parties and their supporters,
not shut them out as beyond the pale.
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