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Pytlas, Bartek ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2399-2826 (2022): Beyond populism: The diversity of thin anti-establishment contestation in turbulent times. In: Party Politics, Vol. 29, No. 4: pp. 648-660 [PDF, 938kB]


Studies of ‘thin’ anti-establishment supply assess mainly the extent of populist messages. This paper analyses the diversity of thin contestation beyond just populism. We deploy a content analysis of 142 social media campaigns by anti-establishment (AEPs) and conventional parties during 23 elections across Europe 2010–2019. We find that in addition to popular will and extra-political technocratic expertise, AEPs increasingly enacted exceptional political calling, crafts and virtues depicted as necessary to revive ‘true’ formal-representative politics itself. Regression analysis shows that political vocation cues played an important auxiliary role in AEP mobilization strategies. On average, those AEPs across the political spectrum which used more political vocation messages performed better electorally ceteris paribus than those which used them less. Conventional parties instead did not universally benefit if they increasingly spotlighted thin messages. The salience of anti-establishment and populism-related rhetoric played a further role within particular AEP groups, but neither was significantly associated with stronger AEP performance altogether. In order to better understand recent political turbulence, it is therefore useful to account for more diverse thin contestation supply.

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