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Monday, 7th November 2011

The New Face of Digital Populism

Source: Demos (UK)

From Executive Summary:

Over the last decade, populist parties have been growing in strength across Western Europe. These parties are defined by their opposition to immigration and concern for protecting national and European culture, sometimes using the language of human rights and freedom. On economic policy, they are often critical of globalisation and the effects of international capitalism on workers’ rights. This is combined with ‘anti- establishment’ rhetoric and language. Often called ‘populist extremist parties’ or ‘the new right’, these parties do not fit easily into the traditional political divides.Their growth over the past decade has been remarkable. Formerly on the political fringes, these parties now command significant political weight in the parliaments of Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Latvia and Slovakia, as well as the European Parliament. In some countries, they are the second or third largest party and are seen as necessary members of many conservative coalition governments.

The growth of these movements is mirrored online. Populist parties are adept at using social media to amplify their message, recruit and organise. Indeed, the online social media following on Facebook and elsewhere for many of these groups often dwarfs their formal membership, consisting of tens of thousands of sympathisers and supporters. This mélange of virtual and real-world political activity is the way millions of people—especially young people—relate to politics in the twenty-first century. This nascent, messy and more ephemeral form of politics is becoming the norm for a younger, digital generation.Yet despite their growth and obvious importance no one has ever investigated these online supporters. This is the first quantitative investigation into these digital populists, based on over 10,000 survey responses from 11 countries and includes data on who they are, what they think, and what motivates them to shift from virtual to real-world activism. It also provides new insight into how populism — and politics and political engagement more generally — is changing as a result of social media.

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Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »



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