Identifying Populist Party Communication on Social Media

ECPR General Conference in Oslo,6 – 9, September 2017

21 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2017

See all articles by Tobias Schwarzbözl

Tobias Schwarzbözl

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Matthias Fatke

LHS Stuttgart

Date Written: September 7, 2017


Populist party communication is a growing research area. However, measuring the concept empirically is challenging due to the context sensitivity of such rhetoric. In this paper, we present an approach that relies on a computer-assisted methods of text analysis to study populist communication on social media that accounts for this problem. We focus on party communication on Facebook in Germany over a period of three years. Based on this data, populist communication is identified using computer-assisted keyword detection, which is sensitive to wording change dynamics and varying word use across parties employing populist communication and reduces the amount of manual coding. A comparison of the approach using a pre-defined keyword list, a validity test with expert evaluations of the salience of anti-elite rhetoric and an application of the data are presented to explore how it relates to existing research and the opportunities it offers.

Keywords: Populism, Political parties, Social media, Facebook, Text analysis

Suggested Citation

Schwarzbözl, Tobias and Fatke, Matthias, Identifying Populist Party Communication on Social Media (September 7, 2017). ECPR General Conference in Oslo,6 – 9, September 2017, Available at SSRN: or

Tobias Schwarzbözl (Contact Author)

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München ( email )

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