Populism has become a widely used concept in both academia and the media. The term’s popularity has encouraged scholars to question how it is applied and to theorize on the consequences of its use. However, there is little empirical research on the temporal and cross-country changes in the use of the term in the public sphere. This article analyses the significations given to the terms ‘populism’ and ‘populist’ in six countries’ daily newspapers over a period of nearly two decades. It presents the results of a quantitative content analysis of texts (N = 3252) published in legacy daily papers in Finland, Sweden, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Turkey in the years 2000–2018. The article shows how the salience, meanings and perceived repercussions of ‘populism’ change over time and vary between the countries. The study reveals how, towards the end of the 2010s, the term is increasingly used in the context of right-wing populism and as a reference to political ideas that are detrimental to democracy. The results are examined in the context of developing academic discussions regarding the effects of ‘populism’ becoming a ubiquitous signifier in the media.
Hatakka, N., & Herkman, J. (2022). Hegemonic meanings of populism: Populism as a signifier in legacy dailies of six countries 2000–2018. Media, Culture and Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/01634437221104680