MEASURING POPULISM ON TWITTER DURING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN LATIN AMERICA
A dictionary-based approach.
Arguably, populism has become increasingly topic across different spheres: the media, the academia and even the vox populi; and it has become quite common to find political movements and leaders labelled as populists. Therefore, one can say that Populism is on the rise across the globe.
Large debate takes place to define what populism is, what the criteria to label a political leader as populist should be, and whether it is healthy or not for democracies. However, must of the research on Populism seems to take place in the European and North American context, and to a lesser extent in other areas such as Latin America – area that some scholars have labelled as “the land of Populism”.
Following a communication-centred understanding of Populism and a dictionary-based quantitative text analysis, this study aims to determine to what extent Latin American political candidates use populist communication during their campaigns using Twitter. In total, N=13,256 tweets from 30 different candidates across the Latin American region were analysed. The results show that most candidates engage to a certain extent with populist communication. Moreover, on top of demonstrating which candidates engaged with populist messages, the study provides insights into the type of messages employed to communicate the populist idea. Lastly, the study analyses the relationship between populist communication and mis- and disinformation as a label. The results show a correlation (R=0,060***) between populist communication and disinformation as a label to discredit or delegitimize the media or opponents.