Populism in Scandinavian Immigration Discourse 1970–2016

Hilmar Mjelde, Jan Fredrik Hovden


This article measures and discusses populism in Scandinavian immigration debate from 1970 to 2016. Using descriptive statistical analysis and logistical regression analysis, we analyze items related to immigration in six newspapers from the three  countries over four constructed weeks for each of the 47 years under study, in total 4,329 coded newspaper articles. We find that populism spikes when immigration spikes due to international developments/crises. References to “the people,” anti-elitism, exclusionist rhetoric, but also alarmist rhetoric about a state of emergency, are the most frequently appearing attributes. Second, country, newspaper genre, and party type of quoted politicians are clearly correlated with populism. Populism is much more likely to be found in Denmark, opinion genres, paticularly letters to the editor, when populist radical-right parties are either speaking or spoken about in the press, and in articles with threat frames.


populism, immigration discourse, media coverage, Scandinavia, news press

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