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Tracing the rise of populism through online behaviour

A recent report by Demos traces the rise of populism through online behaviour. Surveying over 2000 Facebook fans of Hungary’s far-Right political party Jobbik, the study finds that far from being the ‘typical angry young men’ so often portrayed in the media, the party’s supporters (or at least those signed on to the page on Facebook) are ‘young, educated, eurosceptic, pessimistic and prejudiced’.

The report presents the results of a survey of over 2000 Jobbik Facebook fans and includes data on who they are, what they think, and what motivates them to shift from virtual to real-world activism. It also compares the Jobbik party with other similar parties in Western Europe, shedding light on the growing online support of Jobbik, and the relationship between their online and offline activities.

Jobbik is just one of many populist parties reviewed in 13 European cities and is most interesting perhaps because it has been very effective in using online communication to recruit new members. According to the report, Jobbik’s online social media following (40,000 +) is more than its official membership. Is this a trend that shows how young people in their political relationships are gravitating towards online media? According to the Demos report: this nascent, messy and more ephemeral form of politics is becoming the norm for a younger, digital generation.

The report makes for interesting reading and certainly challenges my stereotypical view of what I’d imagined a Jobbik supporter to be like. But it only talks about those actually on Facebook – and not of the thousands (or perhaps hundreds of thousands) of others who prefer to keep their politics offline. We live in interesting times.

 

29 February 2012
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