Insecurity narratives and implicit emotional appeals in French competing populisms

Donatella Bonansinga

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The salience of security concerns has dramatically increased across Europe and a growing body of research converges on their acknowledgement as contributing factors to populist success. As the empirical focus of existing research is on the populist right and on negative emotionality, this paper questions to what extent the populism-(in)security nexus is indeed distinctive to the right and predominantly underpinned by fear-based appeals. By adopting a novel typology of insecurity-framing and a qualitative strategy that infers emotions from core relational themes, the paper explores the implicit emotional content of populist insecurity narratives in France, looking at campaign communication from Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The article offers three contributions. First, by mapping which emotions underpin their insecurity narratives, it illustrates how these populist actors perform ‘emotional governance’, addressing the number of ontological insecurities generally linked to populist voting. Second, it shows that not only exclusionary but also inclusionary populists engage with processes of threat framing and do so with overlapping overarching themes. Finally, it proposes a qualitative approach that captures the holistic meaning of emotions via the methodological use of core relational themes, complementing word-based analyses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalInnovation: the European Journal of Social Science Research
Early online date25 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Aug 2021


  • Emotions
  • Le Pen
  • Mélenchon
  • insecurity
  • narratives
  • populism


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