Populism in the pre-election period: Analysis of the social discourse on the topic of migration in Slovak parliamentary election campaign 2020


social discourse
pre-election period


The topic of migration is often used by populist and non-populist politicians in order to arouse emotions, polarise social attitudes and thus mobilise voters. The present study aims to identify themes (a cognitive aspect of attitudes) and discrete emotions (an emotional aspect of attitudes) in online social discourse as a reaction to the media posts of the main Slovak political parties on the topic of migration in the pre-election period (January-February 2020). Methodological triangulation of discourse analysis and Text mining was used to analyse the data. Analysis of the discourse revealed that articles with pro-migrant rhetoric provoked more discussion about the security and identity threat, while articles by populists provoked more discussion about the morality of elites and the economic threat of migration. The evoked sentiment throughout the discourse leaned more towards negative emotions (fear, anger) but pro-migrant articles and articles by non-populist politicians evoked also positive emotions (joy). Results indicate that rather than fear of migration, the anticipation of a change in the morale of the elites was the key element of the pre-election period in Slovakia. Limitations and implications of the study are further discussed. The value of this paper lies in focusing on both emotional and cognitive aspects of attitudes towards migration.



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