Populist Cues in Media Framing

Exploring How Populism by the Media Emerges in Western News Coverage of Protests

doi: 10.17646/KOME.of.13


The media, or “fourth estate” as it is also known, which scrutinises the political elites, relies on journalists supporting the idea of a free press, independent of political interference. Research has demonstrated that journalists imply anti-elitism and people-centrism – the core features of populism – to criticise the establishment and speak on behalf of ordinary citizens. Scholars, therefore, developed the concept of “media populism” to conceptualise the proliferation of the populist communication phenomenon in different media content types. Spurred by the intention above, this study aims to fill a gap by analysing the extent to which anti-elitism and the general will of the people appear in the online news coverage of demonstrations in five Western media outlets. The study analyses 469 items of news coverage of protests from 108 countries between 2010 and 2020. Quantitative content analysis and confirmatory factor analysis revealed that news outlets emphasise anti-elitism as the primary populist cue in protest coverage. Additionally, the paper contributes to the concept of media populism by arguing that journalists articulate the volonté general in coverage when protesters oppose adverse changes in legislation. Media populism has a specific function in the coverage of protests: it suggests that protesters want to participate in decision-making processes.


populism demonstrations anti-elitism general will media populism

How to Cite

Tóth, T., Demeter, M., Szabó, L. P., & Török, B. (2024). Populist Cues in Media Framing: Exploring How Populism by the Media Emerges in Western News Coverage of Protests. KOME, 12(1), 141–162. https://doi.org/10.17646/KOME.of.13


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