Participatory populism: online discussion forums on mainstream news sites during the 2014 European parliament election

Charlotte Galpin, Hans-Jörg Trenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
239 Downloads (Pure)


Online media have transformed the political news landscapes, changing not only professional journalistic practices but also the way in which citizens participate in political communication. In the debate about the impact of the Internet on democratic practices, some scholars emphasize the potential of digital media platforms to establish a medium for deliberative and inclusive democratic participation, whereas others underline the development of fragmented ‘echo chambers’ driven by the interests of mainstream news organisations. We point to an alternative scenario in which online political communication develops in the direction of ‘participatory populism’, involving an unrepresentative group of users actively engaging in the delegitimization of democratic institutions. This engagement results in a collective voice that expresses high levels of negativity towards mainstream democratic politics. Through a study of user comments relating to the 2014 European Parliament election in Germany and the UK, we show how commenters express predominantly negative views towards not just the EU but also national government and mainstream opposition parties. We find, however, that the relationship between user comments and news platforms is highly contextualized. The nature of the relationship between comments and news platforms across countries thus warrants further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-798
Number of pages18
JournalJournalism Practice
Issue number7
Early online date17 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • European Parliament elections
  • Germany
  • UK
  • internet
  • negativity
  • political participation
  • populism
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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