Social media and the cordon sanitaire: Populist politics, the online space, and a relationship that just isn’t there

Mark Littler, Matthew Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Much research has sought to map the spread of extreme and populist political ideologies across Western Europe. Despite this, it often fails to explain how these ideologies move from the political fringes to positions of influence, subverting the traditional cordon sanitaire around extreme views. As a result of recent successes by populist actors, a more nuanced understanding of this process is required.

This paper posits an explanation for this success, suggesting that the growing pluralisation of the online media environment and the impact of social media content sharing are key to understanding how fringe political actors avoid both overt and implicit barriers to popularising extreme positions. Using data from the British Election Study, this paper offers a quantitative test of this approach, finding an inconsistent relationship between social media use and extreme political opinions. Potential explanations for this are discussed alongside possible directions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)510-522
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Language and Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


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