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Keywords:

  • populism;
  • media;
  • newspapers;
  • content analysis;
  • public debate

Electorally, Western European populist political parties have been rather successful in the last two decades. But how pervasive is their actual populist message? Although some scholars have looked at the diffusion of this message, they have only focused on the arena of party politics. Research on how widespread populism is beyond the party political sphere is still in its infancy. This study looks at populism in public debates in the media. Based on a content analysis of opinion articles in newspapers in five Western European countries, I demonstrate that these debates have become more populist over the years, and that the degree of populism is strongly related to the success of populist parties. This indicates that populism is more widespread than previously assumed. I also show that letters are more populist than other opinion articles and that debates in tabloid media are not more populist than debates in elite media.