Stuck in a Nativist Spiral: Content, Selection, and Effects of Right-Wing Populists’ Communication on Facebook – Political Communication – article

Stuck in a Nativist Spiral: Content, Selection, and Effects of Right-Wing Populists’ Communication on Facebook

Raffael Heiss, Jörg Matthes | Political Communication

2019-10-22

Although social media have become important venues for right-wing populist (RWP) campaigns, the content, selection, and effects of RWP messages on social media remain largely unknown. Using content and panel analysis in two studies, we investigated the potential reciprocal relationship between RWP communication on social media and citizens’ anti-immigrant attitudes, anti-elitist attitudes, and feelings of anger and anxiety. In Study 1, we analyzed 13,358 Facebook posts from German and Austrian political parties and their leading candidates. Among our results, RWP actors conveyed anti-immigrant and anti-elitist messages more often than non-RWP actors, and anti-immigrant messages especially induced negative emotional responses among followers of RWP actors. In Study 2, our analysis of data from a two-wave panel study with 559 respondents revealed that anti-immigrant attitudes drove selective exposure to RWP content on Facebook, which consequently fueled anti-immigrant attitudes, and that selective exposure to such content increased individuals’ anti-elitist attitudes and anxiety.

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