Oscar Mazzoleni, Grégoire Yerly, Emilia Meini, Antoine Lehmann (University of Lausanne) & Reinhard Heinisch, Martin Dolezal, Diana Hofmann (University of Salzburg)
Project FNS, Division 1 - Contract no: 10001GL_207625- Fr. 512'197.- / 48 months (2022-2026) // Project FWF Austria - Contract no: 22/1262389 – Euro 407'172.- / 48 months (2022-2026)
Populism and Conspiracy in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Linking Discourses and Attitudes in Four European Countries
In recent years, right-wing populist radical parties (PRRP) have enjoyed increasing success in European political systems, largely thanks to their calls for limiting immigration and fighting globalization. However, PRRPs have also adapted to a changing context by using new issues to strengthen their success and reformulate their agenda. In an era defined as "post-truth", where personal beliefs and emotions are often more persuasive than objective facts, PRRPs could be expected to politicize crucial issues in today's democracies in their discourse by using conspiracy theories. The COVID-19 pandemic represents a relevant testing ground in this respect, and is expected to remain so in the future. The aim of this research project is to bridge populism and conspiracy theories to understand the politicisation of COVID-19. In order to pursue this goal, the project will link two dimensions: (a), the analysis of populist radical-right discourse in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, to understand whether and to what extent conspiracy theories are present in their discourse and how the discursive claims are constructed; (b) the analysis of the conspiratorial beliefs and ideas among the public and their determinants, as well as the relationship between such conspiratorial ideas, on the one hand, and populist attitudes and support for populist parties, on the other hand. The project focuses four countries – Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France – where such parties have been long established and particularly successful but differ in relevance in their respective political system.