Representations of the Nordic Populism

“Representations of the Nordic Populism” (2013–2018) is an Academy Research Fellow project funded by the Academy of Finland. It aims to study the various media representations and debates on those representations of the contemporary Nordic populist parties and through those analyses, to compare the parties and their national contexts as political phenomena. At the same time, the project will consider the historical particularities of populism in different Nordic countries. A more profound objective of the project is to deepen the comprehension about populism as inherently local, but simultaneously, a general phenomenon.

The project will answer the following research questions:

RQ1 What kinds of similarities and differences can be found in the media representations of contemporary Nordic populist parties?

RQ2 What kinds of public and semi-public debates these representations have raised in different countries?

RQ3 How are representations and debates connected to their national histories and contexts?

RQ4 What does the comparison of Nordic populism reveal about populism in general?

The appropriate research methods for the study are both quantitative and qualitative content analysis and focused interviews. The primary research material of quantitative analysis includes the press coverage concerning four contemporary populist parties in the Nordic countries, namely Perussuomalaiset (The Finns Party) in Finland, Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats) in Sweden, Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s party) in Denmark and Fremskrittspartiet (Norwegian Progress party) in Norway. The sample includes press coverage of the above parties published in the leading newspaper and leading tabloid paper of each country, one month before and two weeks after the 21st century “key” parliamentary election in which the party achieved a remarkable status in the national parliament.

The quantitative content analysis of the leading newspapers will be supplemented by qualitative case analyses of other media representations concerning the Nordic populist parties. The qualitative analysis will focus on popular, rather than on prestigious media, because the appeal and aversion of populism are inherently connected to popular images and imaginations. Cartoons concerning populist parties and their representatives constitute material for one sub-study, television programmes, such as magazine programmes, document programmes, talk shows and political satires, are material for another exploration. In addition, debates on media representations of populist parties carried out in social media and Internet discussion groups will be selectively analysed. Analyses of debates are supplemented—if possible—with focused interviews of representatives from the parties and media. These materials will be analysed using a discourse or narrative methodology.

The last endeavour of the project compares the country-specific sub-studies and summarises the research on populism for new theoretical and conceptual insights. The target is to achieve a genuine comparative analysis of Nordic populisms.

The research will take place at the University of Helsinki, Department of Social Research, but the project collaborates with scholars and academic institutes as well as employs native research assistants for collecting and analysing the data in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

The Scandinavian partners of the project include Professor Jens Rydgren (Department of Sociology, Stockholm University), Professor Sigurd Allern (Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo; visiting Professor at the Department of Media Studies, Stockholm University), Reader Ester Pollack (Department of Media Studies, Stockholm University), Professor Tor Midtbø (Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen) and Associate Professor and the Head of Film and Media Studies Programme Christa Lykke Christensen (Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen). In Finland several scholars from the Universities of Helsinki, Turku, Tampere and Jyväskylä collaborate with the project.

More about the project in Nordicom Information 35:3-4 (2013).

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