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Populism, Nationalism and Radical Politics Study Group

Activating Populism: The Role of Blame Attribution


March 1, 2017
2:15pm - 4:00pm
Lower Level Conference Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
March 1, 2017
2:15pm - 4:00pm
Lower Level Conference Room, Adolphus Busch Hall
Video recording 1h:44m

Scholars have long known that the rhetoric of populist politicians is an important part of their appeal; however, less is known about how that rhetoric operates. Drawing on data from two large experiments conducted with American adults, we show that survey questions encouraging individuals to consider political problems within a dispositional blame frame activates latent populist attitudes, while an encouragement to consider these same problems in a situational blame frame does not. In our second experiment, we connect this framing change to voting intentions and find that subjects exposed to dispositional frames are more likely to express support for Donald Trump and less likely to express support for Hillary Clinton than subjects exposed to situational frames. Importantly, the impact of framing is contingent on pre-existing populist attitudes; subjects with moderate levels of populist attitudes are much more likely to demonstrate an increase in expressed populism and support for Trump.

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