Cognitio populi – Vox populi: Implications of science-related populism for communication behavior

Abstract

In many countries, science is challenged by science-related populism, which deems the common sense of “ordinary people” superior to the knowledge of “academic elites”. Individual support for science-related populism can be associated with people’s communication behavior. On the one hand, people who hold science-related populist attitudes may inform themselves differently about science; they may even be disconnected from societal discourse around science. On the other hand, they may communicate more actively on social media and in interpersonal conversations. We test this using nationally representative survey data from Switzerland. Results show that science-related populists use TV and social networking sites more often to get information about science. They are also more likely to communicate about science in social media comments. However, science-related populist attitudes are not associated with a general preference for social media over journalistic media. Science-related populism has thus not (yet) fueled a “science-related public disconnection”. We also run multiverse analyses, which show further nuances of our results, and discuss implications for science communication.

Publication
In Communications. Advance online publication.
Niels G. Mede
Niels G. Mede
Science Communication Researcher

I am a Senior Research and Teaching Associate at the Department of Communication and Media Research (IKMZ) of the University of Zurich, where I also completed a PhD in communication studies. My work focuses on science communication, public opinion, populism, digital media, climate change communication, and survey methodology. In 2022 and 2023, I was a visiting researcher at the Department of Life Sciences Communication of the University of Wisconsin—Madison and the Oxford Internet Institute. In June 2024, I join the Digital Media Research Centre of the Queensland University of Technology as a visiting scholar.