Contemporary Southeastern Europe
Textual Analysis of Populist Discourse in 2014/2015 Presidential Election in Croatia
Populism has been vastly present in Croatian media discourse as a common point of reference but it has been almost completely left out from scientific inquiry. Building on the premise that populism is reflected in communication practices of politicians, parties and movements, this paper uses content analysis to examine interviews of the four presidential candidates during election campaign in Croatia in 2014 (first round) and 2015 (second round). We apply a two-level approach to measure populism on two distinct but related levels - as a thin-centered political ideology and as a political communication style. Populism as ideology is examined through the presence of positive references to the people, relationship to political elites and references to ‘dangerous others’. The analysis of populism as political communication style is primarily set to determine efforts of the candidates to use populist cues to resonate with the voters. The presence of populist style is here examined through three categories: politicians’ explicit referencing to the people, their attempts of displaying proximity to the people by using language that typically belongs to the private sphere and their use of ‘empty signifiers’. The results of this study indicate that populism was present in 2014/2015 Croatian presidential election on both examined levels - as an ideology and as a communication style.