UNpacking POPulism: Comparing the formation of emotion narratives and their effects on political behaviour

March 22, 2021 to March 21, 2024
36 months

While populism may be considered alien to democratic practices, or a degenerated and irrational expression of political discourse, populist parties master the use of emotion in politics. In the rich body of literature on populism, only a few studies address the entanglement of populism and emotions, although many acknowledge it exists. Moreover, these studies generally focus on the mobilisation of single negative emotions and privilege quantitative methodologies alone. More importantly, they mostly approach emotions as if they constitute a descriptive property of populist speech acts and actors, thus missing the opportunity to engage with emotions as fundamental categories in the analysis of populist politics. UNpacking POPulist emotion narratives enables a deeper analysis of how populist phenomena constitute themselves and how they impact on political behaviour. The literature increasingly shows that in order to UNderstand the POPping of populism in European politics (and beyond), a much deeper engagement with emotions is needed. Outstanding evidence is expected comparing Portugal (PT) - until recently considered an exception - and Italy (IT) - a country quite experienced with populism. UNPOP seeks to unravel the conditions enabling and favouring right-wing populist politics, engaging with the consensual and yet understudied assumption that the mobilisation of emotions is a fundamental cause. In order to unpack this constitutive dimension of populist politics, UNPOP advances and applies a mixed methodology and develops a comparative research plan focusing on ‘EMOTION NARRATIVES’. These are frames in which both positive and negative emotions are mobilised to stimulate political behaviour, in order to define both ingroup and outgroup characteristics. 


UNPOP expected RESULTS are to define an innovative methodology to analyse the construction of populist politics, offer solid empirical evidence of mechanisms employed by right wing populist parties in PT and IT to impact on political behaviour, and contribute to democratic theorisation to build inclusive, cohesive and reflexive society.


CINEICC (Center for Research in Neuropsychology and Cognitive Behavioral Intervention), Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, Universidade de Coimbra

democratic theory, right-wing political parties, mixed methodology, affective turn
Funding Entity
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology