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Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries x Jaar 2020 x
Article

Political Sophistication and Populist Party Support

The Case of PTB-PVDA and VB in the 2019 Belgian Elections

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2020
Trefwoorden populist voters, political sophistication, voting motivations, Belgium, elections
Auteurs Marta Gallina, Pierre Baudewyns en Jonas Lefevere
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    In this article, we investigate the moderating role of political sophistication on the vote for populist parties in Belgium. Building on the literature about the diverse determinants of populist party support, we investigate whether issue considerations and populism-related motivations play a bigger role in the electoral calculus of politically sophisticated voters.
    Using data from the 2019 general elections in Belgium, we focus on the cases of Vlaams Belang (VB) and Parti du Travail de Belgique- Partij van de Arbeid (PTB-PVDA). We find evidence suggesting that political sophistication enhances the impact of populism-related motivations on populist party support, although the effects are contingent on the party. Moreover, we show that, for issue considerations, the moderation effect only comes into play for VB voters: the impact of anti-immigrant considerations is greater at increasing levels of political sophistication.


Marta Gallina
Marta Gallina is a PhD Student at the Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium. She obtained her BA and MA in Social Sciences at the University of Milan. Her research interests regard the study of political behaviour, political sophistication, issue dimensionality, populism and Voting Advice Applications. Her work appeared in scientific journals such as Statistics, Politics and Policy, Environmental Politics and Italian Political Science.

Pierre Baudewyns
Pierre Baudewyns is Professor of political behaviour at UCLouvain. He is involved in different projects (voters, candidates) related to National Election Study. Results of his research have been published in Electoral Studies, European Political Science, Regional & Federal Studies, West European Politics and Comparative European Politics.

Jonas Lefevere
Jonas Lefevere is research professor of political communication at the Institute for European Studies and assistant professor of communication at Vesalius College. Since 2018, he is also vice-chair of the ECPR Standing Group on Political Communication. His research interests deal with the communication strategies of political parties, and the effects of election campaigns on voters’ electoral behaviour. He has published on these topics in, amongst others, Electoral Studies, Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Communication and International Journal of Public Opinion Research.
Research Note

Campaigning Online and Offline: Different Ballgames?

Presidentialization, Issue Attention and Negativity in Parties’ Facebook and Newspaper Ads in the 2019 Belgian General Elections

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2020
Trefwoorden political advertising, Belgium, social media, newspapers, campaign
Auteurs Jonas Lefevere, Peter Van Aelst en Jeroen Peeters
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This Research Note investigates party advertising in newspapers and on social media (Facebook) during the 2019 general elections in Flanders, the largest region of Belgium. The 2019 elections saw a marked increase in the use of social media advertising by parties, whereas newspaper advertising saw a decline. Prior research that compares multiple types of advertising, particularly advertising on social and legacy media remains limited. As such, based on a quantitative content analysis we investigate not just the prevalence of party advertising on both types of media, but also compare the level of negativity, presidentialisation, and issue emphasis. Our analysis reveals substantial differences: we find that not only the type of advertisements varies across the platforms, but also that social media ads tend to be more negative. Finally, parties’ issue emphasis varies substantially as well, with different issues being emphasized in newspaper and Facebook advertisements.


Jonas Lefevere
Jonas Lefevere is research professor of political communication at the institute for European Studies (VUB) and assistant professor at Vesalius College, Brussels.

Peter Van Aelst
Peter Van Aelst is a research professor at the department of political science at the University of Antwerp.

Jeroen Peeters
Jeroen Peeters is a PhD student at the department of political science at the University of Antwerp.
Article

Access_open Voters of Populist Parties and Support for Reforms of Representative Democracy in Belgium

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 3 2020
Trefwoorden Belgian politics, democratic reforms, elections, populist voters, representative democracy
Auteurs Lisa van Dijk, Thomas Legein, Jean-Benoit Pilet e.a.
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Recently, studies have burgeoned on the link between populism and demands for democratic reforms. In particular, scholars have been debating the link between populist citizens or voters and support for referendums. In this article, we examine voters of populist parties (Vlaams Belang (VB) and Parti du Travail de Belgique-Partij van de Arbeid (PTB-PVDA)) in Belgium in 2019 and we look at their attitudes towards various types of democratic reforms. We find that voters of populist parties differ from the non-populist electorate in their support for different kinds of reforms of representative democracy. Voters of VB and PTB-PVDA have in common stronger demands for limiting politicians’ prerogatives, for introducing binding referendums and for participatory budgeting. While Vlaams Belang voters are not significantly different from the non-populist electorate on advisory referendums, citizens’ forums or technocratic reform, PVDA-PTB voters seem more enthusiastic.


Lisa van Dijk
Lisa van Dijk (corresponding author), KU Leuven.

Thomas Legein
Thomas Legein, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

Jean-Benoit Pilet
Jean-Benoit Pilet, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

Sofie Marien
Sofie Marien, KU Leuven.
Article

Interest Representation in Belgium

Mapping the Size and Diversity of an Interest Group Population in a Multi-layered Neo-corporatist Polity

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering Online First 2020
Trefwoorden interest groups, advocacy, access, advisory councils, media attention
Auteurs Evelien Willems, Jan Beyers en Frederik Heylen
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article assesses the size and diversity of Belgium’s interest group population by triangulating four data sources. Combining various sources allows us to describe which societal interests get mobilised, which interest organisations become politically active and who gains access to the policy process and obtains news media attention. Unique about the project is the systematic data collection, enabling us to compare interest representation at the national, Flemish and Francophone-Walloon government levels. We find that: (1) the national government level remains an important venue for interest groups, despite the continuous transfer of competences to the subnational and European levels, (2) neo-corporatist mobilisation patterns are a persistent feature of interest representation, despite substantial interest group diversity and (3) interest mobilisation substantially varies across government levels and political-administrative arenas.


Evelien Willems
Evelien Willems, Departement Politieke Wetenschappen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgium.

Jan Beyers
Jan Beyers, Departement Politieke Wetenschappen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgium.

Frederik Heylen
Frederik Heylen, Departement Politieke Wetenschappen, Universiteit Antwerpen, Antwerpen, Belgium.
Article

Populism as a Visual Communication Style

An Exploratory Study of Populist Image Usage of Flemish Block/Interest in Belgium (1991-2018)

Tijdschrift Politics of the Low Countries, Aflevering 1 2020
Trefwoorden Populism, image use, visual style, campaign, posters, visual, Flanders, populist right, Belgium
Auteurs Kevin Straetemans
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article analyses the visual communication of the Flemish populist right-wing party Vlaams Blok/Vlaams Belang, and investigates whether or not the party uses a specific populist communication style in its campaign posters, whether or not its visual style evolves over time and how the party distinguishes itself from other (right-wing) parties in its use of images. To do this, the image use will be compared with the CVP/CD&V and the Volksunie/N-VA. This use of images will be investigated by analysing election posters from 1991 to 2018. The analysis shows that there is indeed a ‘populist visual style’. These items consist mainly of (negative) metaphors, false dilemmas, caricatures and the use of so-called ‘agonic’ visual techniques.


Kevin Straetemans
Kevin Straetemans attained a Master’s degree in Political Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in 2018. He is currently pursuing an Educational Master in Social Sciences at the same university. His research interests are political parties, elections, extremism, propaganda and political communication.
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