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Joint PolBeRG and ConSec Seminar on Populism and Automated Content Analysis

Academic & Research
The CEU Campus
Friday, April 29, 2016, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

We cordially invite you to the ConSec and PolBeRG joint seminar that will be held on Friday (29.04.) 17.30 (FT 908). For this occasion we will have two papers on automated content analysis and populism, presented by Erin Jenne and Bruno Castanho Silva. The format of this seminar will be somewhat different. Following the presentations we will have two discussants. Juraj Medzihorsky, a post-doc research fellow, will be discussing Bruno's paper, while Erin's paper will be discussed by Bruno. Here are the abstracts:

"A Head-to-Head Comparison of Human-Based and Automated Text Analysis for Measuring Populism in 27 Countries" by Bruno Castanho Silva


In this paper we use holistic grading to measure the level of populism found in political parties' discourse during electoral campaigns. The technique is applied to electoral manifestos from 144 parties in 27 countries from Western Europe and the Americas. For about half the sample, we also code speeches by the candidates or party leaders, which indicate the validity of measuring populism on electoral manifestos. Our results indicate that populism is stronger in Latin America than in Europe, and that the level of populism among some European parties typically considered as examples of radical right populism might be overstated when compared with Latin American counterparts. We contrast these results with automated content analysis of the manifestos through machine learning. In this sample, the results of computerized text analysis are not satisfactory, but indicate that with more data it could be a viable option.

"How Populist Governments Rewrite Sovereignty and Why" by Erin Jenne


This paper outlines how state leaders use populism for the purposes of elevating themselves and marginalizing the political opposition, with the aim of consolidating a kind of permanent control over state institutions. I begin with a single case study of a populist government (post-2010 Fidesz government in Hungary), which, once in office, has undertaken to rename streets, stadiums, and squares, erect monuments, and self-consciously rehabilitate the memory of the right-wing Horthy regime from the interwar period, and hence alter the mainstream historical interpretation of Hungary's role in the Holocaust. In this analysis, I conduct a plausibility probe using computer aided text analysis (CATA) on speeches on two national holidays given by the two main contending parties in Hungary (both in and out of government from 2006 to 2015). Using structure topic models (STM), I test for whether the speeches given by the present populist government in Hungary (Fidesz) differ in predictable ways from that of their left-wing opponents and whether these differences were also apparent when the Socialist Party held power from 2006 to 2010 when Fidesz was the main opposition party. The analysis here suggests that Fidesz indeed has a unique discursive style of governance that links their political agenda with historical narratives of sovereignty. Moreover, this style varies from both the rhetorical style employed by Fidesz while in opposition as well as the Socialist (non-populist) party in government.

Hope to see many of you at the seminar!