Amsterdam School of Communication Research / ASCoR

Contents and effects of responsibility attribution as a populist communication strategy

PhD Student: Michael Hameleers MSc


The central focus of this PhD project is how media cue citizens when assigning responsibility for political problems and how this affects citizens’ attitudes and support for democratic politics more generally. The idea that citizens hold politicians accountable and responsible is a key feature of representative democracy.


However, the complex system of multi-level governance in the European Union has made it increasingly more difficult for citizens to assign responsibility, and encourages domestic political actors to use the EU as a scapegoat for national problems. Populism plays an important part in this 'blame game' that serves to obfuscate attribution of responsibility and find scapegoats. Populist rhetoric is shaped by a clear distinction between the "blameless" in-group and the "culprit" out-group. Blame-shifting to out-groups is thus a crucial part of populist rhetoric.


In three integrated studies, the presence of responsibility attribution is investigated in a systematic content analysis and effects are studied in both a real world election setting as well as in a controlled experimental setting. Together, these studies aim to provide insight in the presence, prominence and effects of responsibility attribution in the media. The PhD project is linked to the EU-funded COST action on mediated populism and is connected to a NCCR/Swiss Science foundation funded project on populism which includes a Dutch study.

  • Mr M. (Michael) Hameleers MSc

    PhD student
    T: 0618748173

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  • prof. dr. C.H. (Claes) de Vreese

    Supervisor | T: 0205252426

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Published by  ASCoR

6 November 2017