To Like is to Support? The Effects and Mechanisms of Selective Exposure to Online Populist Communication on Voting Preferences

Michael Hameleers


Social media have a central role in the electoral success of populist parties. Online populist discourse may be persuasive because it oftentimes combines two powerful cues: (1) It emphasizes an all-encompassing divide between “good” ordinary people and “corrupt” elites while (2) cultivating perceived relative deprivation. This article relies on two experiments (N = 1,114) to investigate how these cues affect populist party preferences when communicated via news websites (Study 1) and social network accounts of ordinary national citizens versus populist politicians (Study 2). To simulate citizens’ high-choice media environment, the second study was situated in a selective exposure media environment. The results indicate that the combination of populist and deprivation cues is especially persuasive when citizens self-select a congruent message and when they identify with the source. The results of this study provide important insights into the role of social media in cultivating the electoral success of populist parties.


attitudinal congruence, motivated reasoning, populism, populist voting, selective exposure, social network sites, source identification

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