Conference Agenda

Panel 810: Populist parties and movements
Wednesday, 08/Sept/2021:
11:30am - 1:00pm

Session Chair: Paloma Caravantes, Rutgers University


News, Misinformation And Support For The EU: Exploring The Effect Of Social Media As Polarizing Force Or Neutral Mediators

Martin Moland, Asimina Michailidou

University of Oslo, Norway

We build on extant research of news media effects on perceived political legitimacy to explore the polarizing effects a social media news ‘diet’ – and particularly its ‘fake news’ aspect - may have on public opinion about European integration.

Our methodology repurposes public opinion data, and, first, investigates whether those relying on social media for (EU) news express less support for the Union overall and its migration policies compared to those relying on other news sources. As migration policies are a crucial case for a study of social media effects, due to their media salience and potential for polarization, we measure the effects in periods where the chance of external factors like excessive migration inflows acting as omitted variables is as small as possible. We test whether individual attitudes commonly found to predict Euroscepticism, such as low knowledge about the EU, become a more potent driver of Eurosceptic beliefs when they co-exist with a reliance on social media as a news source. This causal mechanism could be assumed due to how online debates frequently act to reinforce existing beliefs.

We control for a range of variables common in the literature on public support for the EU (people's experience of feeling European, their knowledge of EU politics, trust in national institutions and already existing image of the EU), which are nonetheless rarely used when investigating the effects of social media use on trust. In a second step, we probe the link between social media news consumption, fake news and polarization by expanding the cross-sectional analysis with country-level analysis of the countries where the largest (Hungary) and smallest (Finland) percentage report encountering news they believe to be fake on at least a weekly basis. Our preliminary results show significant negative effects of social media use, even without mediators, in the Hungarian sample. These effects are smaller, and less consistently significant, in the Finnish case. Our paper thus contributes to the still sparsely researched aspect of social media effects within the extensive literature on media effects on support for European integration.

Centrist Populisms of Central and Eastern Europe: New Challengers for Domestic Elites as Well as for Brussels Elites?

Filip Fila1, Višeslav Raos2, Nikola Petrović1

1Institute for Social Research in Zagreb, Croatia; 2Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb, Croatia

The EU has often been labeled as a 'centrist project', as well as an ‘elite-driven project’, which makes it the target of populist actors spread out all over the political spectrum, sometimes including those near the center. The bulk of research on those actors has, however, focused on radical populist parties rather than centrist populist parties and their attitudes towards the EU. The latter types of parties have made a significant impact on politics in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly during the previous decade. This paper therefore seeks to explore centrist populist parties' attitudes towards the EU during the 2010s. Research is divided into two phases: analyzing the supply and demand side of populism. On the supply side the main research question is what sort of attitudes towards the EU centrist populist parties hold. Case selection is based on two criteria: the party must still be active and must have provided the prime minister. The PopuList database is used to filter out populist parties, whose EU attitudes are first presented based on CHES scores across various EU issues. The cases of Smer, OL’aNO, ANO, List of Marjan Šarec and GERB are analyzed. The analysis is complemented by qualitative accounts based on materials from party manifestos (CMP), other relevant publications and speeches by party leaders. The demand side is explored by combining Eurobarometer surveys, which portray general views of the EU in the researched countries, with European Social Survey (ESS) data, which allows ascertaining EU attitudes of the analyzed parties’ voters.

‘Conference On The Future Of Europe’: An Answer To The Populist Challenge?

Cláudia Ramos

Universidade Fernando Pessoa & CEPESE, Portugal

The European Union faces a growing challenge coming from neo-nationalist anti-integration political forces, which resort to the rhetoric of populism in order to mobilise political and, mainly, electoral support. Although these forces remain minoritarian, notably in the European Parliament, the dimension their representation has so far acquired, the far reaching echoes of their discourse, and the substantial electoral or referendum results at the national and regional infra-national levels, do raise a concern on the future of European integration.

The European institutions, and through them, the party families supporting integration, have put forward a project for creating a conference on the future of Europe, as recently agreed in a joint declaration of the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission (10.03.2021). Although this does not sound like a brand new initiative (echoing some of the debates at the time of the ‘European Convention’, 2001) the difference may however be in the emphasis on overcoming the routines and the shortcomings of representative democracy, into a more direct, participatory democracy oriented practice. From the point of view of democracy theories, this means an attempt to face the populist challenge in the same field it has proven efficient, i.e., reaching discontent citizens, identifying their claims and bringing them to the fore in the political scenario. However, this is an initiative departing from the heavy, and often criticised for that nature, institutional framework of the Union, precisely the one the populist neo-nationalist discourse targets as the voice of the elites.

The article will review the standpoints of the institutions involved and of the European party families, as well as the procedures designed for the purpose, in order to build a perspective on the opportunities this project may introduce for the development of democracy at the EU level, and for the expected fostering of citizens’ support to European integration. While a balance of the results actually achieved will only be possible at the end (the Conference runs from 9 May 2021 to 9 May 2022) the ex-ante analysis should prove useful to understanding the pathways of democracy in the EU, facing the populist neo-nationalist challenge.

The Long Shadow of National-Populism: The Case Of Asociación Cultural Alfonso I (ACAI)

Eva Gómez Fernández

University of Cantabria, Spain

The Spanish far right has remained outside the hemicycle until 2018 when Vox broke into the Andalusian Parliament. However, in the last decade national-populist groups have emerged in Spain that have remained outside the parliamentary spectrum. These organizations have taken as a reference to the neo-fascist organization, Casa Pound Italia (CPI) which, in the words of Elisabetta Cassina Wolff, has kept alive the legacy of fascism. The study aims to analyze one of them, the Asociación Cultural Alfonso I (ACAI) that emerged in Santander, northern Spain, in 2012.

To achieve this goal, its ideology will be analyzed. First of all, is not identified with either the right or the left but it has revered the members of the Blue Division. ACAI has also taken as reference the fascist-prone leader, Onésimo Redondo and the architect of the French Nouvelle Droite, Alain de Benoist from whom it has adopted its anti-immigration and ethno-populist discourse. Also, among others, the poet, Yukio Mishima, who had created a youth squad known as “tatenakai”, whose translation is Society of The Shield, which aimed to safeguard Japanese traditions. Secondly, it is nativist because it defends the motto "the Spaniards first". Third, it is authoritarian because it tries to censor left-wing sectors, as well as combat feminism that it pejoratively calls "gender ideology". Finally, it advocates a welfare chauvinism that benefits Spanish citizens.

Its strategies to recruit militants through ludic initiatives such as the sale of lottery tickets, raffles of technological products or the promotion of Rock Against Communism (RAC) music concerts will be highlighted. That music is inspired by neo-Nazi themes because in its letters there are anti-Semitic, anti-communist, racist, anti-feminist and anti-democratic expressions.

The purpose of this study is to illustrate the mechanisms used by this national-populist association to articulate an extremist, anti-feminist, xenophobic and nativist message. To address it, it will be analyzed its netnography, secondary sources of the newspaper library, its newsletter Galerna and it will do personal interviews to the members of that organization.