The populist hotbed: How political attitudes, resentment, and justice beliefs predict both exposure to and avoidance of specific populist news features in the United States Academic Article uri icon


  • A politics of resentment has shaped a low-dialogue political environment in the United States, feeding into populism, and characterized by perceived distributive injustice, detachment between politicians and “the people”, and political polarization. In this political environment, independent of editorial lines, news can spread based on populist content features and drive the political divide even further. However, we still do not understand well, how the forces of political disconnect as well as potentially unifying elements such as political knowledge and the willingness to connect with the other (political) side predict audience interest in populist news featuring people-centrism, anti-elitism, restoring popular sovereignty, and the exclusion of others. To better understand what drives (dis-)interest in populist news features, we combined self-report data from a non-student US sample (N = 440) on political attitudes with unobtrusively measured data on their selective exposure to populist news. We analyzed the data using zero-inflated negative binomial regression models, in which we simultaneously modeled selective exposure to and avoidance of populist news. The findings indicate that especially the will to connect with others explained exposure to news about anti-elitism, especially among Democrats, while Republicans’ news avoidance seems to be specifically geared toward people-centrism. Populist communication features promoting “us” vs. “them” dichotomies seem to not automatically resonate with the views of resentful voters and their motivated reasoning.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Scherr, S., & Leiner, D.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Scherr, Sebastian||Leiner, Dominik

publication date

  • October 2021