This project addresses the question how 'the people' and 'the others' are framed in populist strategies and what the effects thereof are. Specifically, we will analyse how these two groups are imbued with morality by instrumentalizing references to gender and sexuality, especially in the context of immigration. There is a consensus among populism scholars that populism involves a certain antagonistic scapegoating logic. In Northern Europe, immigration, especially by a Muslim population, is increasingly being framed as incompatible with gender and sexual equality. Consequently, far right parties now attract women and pro-LGBTIQ voters who are fearful of Islam. However, a comparative in depth analysis of this phenomenon does not exist, and even less so an analysis of the effects of this strategic framing. So as to better understand this at first sight strange marriage of a progressive gender and sexuality agenda pushed forward by populist actors, especially on the right, the project is divided into two major phases.
The first phase seeks to answer how 'the people' and 'the others' are strategically framed and imbued with morality in the context of immigration, using references to gender and sexuality. For this phase we will rely on a Critical Frame Analysis of tweets. Contemporary populism scholars agree that populist politicians choose to use Twitter because it represents a platform for communication that is highly personal and bypasses other (fake) media. In short, it presents the ideal platform for populist strategies. Instead of selecting tweets only from specific parties or persons, we will analyse tweets by various political actors. Critical Frame Analysis is a qualitative method to analyse large amount of text data in a comparative way in order to detect underlying frames. Most importantly, as Critical Frame Analysis makes explicit the roles and underlying norms and values attributed to different actors, it enables us to answer how 'the people' and 'the others' are framed in the context of immigration; how gender and sexuality are used in this context; what differences in the strategic use of gender and sexuality can be found; and how to understand them.
To be able to see whether these frames actually structure the meaning of reality and test what the frame differential effects are, a different methodology is required. The second phase of this research therefore deploys vignette studies to provide an empirical exploration of the differential effects of various populist frames. Studies have shown that small differences between frames may result in strong effects in attitudes and behaviour. By creating several different vignettes and randomly distributing these among a sample of population-based respondents, frame specific effects are reliably estimated. The data gathered in the first phase will be used to design vignettes. Even though vignette experiments are excellent for identifying causal relations and for mapping the effects of various frames on individuals, the methodology is not suited to determine whether effects will last. However, people are overloaded with populist strategies and are seldom exposed to them just once. Apart from theoretical difficulties and possible shortcomings of the experimental data in terms of extrapolation, the vignette studies are (logistically) quite straightforward to conduct.
The project will focus on the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. They have their own distinct history with gender and LGBTIQ emancipation, and adhere to markedly different immigration policies. Yet they have all witnessed the rise of the new right, and religion (especially Islam), equality, immigration and multiculturalism, tend to be linked up.