Led On Line
Presentazione - About us
Novita' - What's new
Lededizioni Home Page Ricerca - Search
Catalogo - Catalogue
Per contattarci - Contacts
Per gli Autori - For the Authors
Statistiche - Statistics
Cookie Policy
Privacy Policy

A Corpus-Based CDA of Populist Politicians’ Strategies and Public Response on Twitter during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Andrea Cifalinò, Ester Di Silvestro, Marco Venuti



In this paper we analyse how populist leaders in UK and Italy – namely Nigel Farage, Nicola Sturgeon, Giorgia Meloni, and Matteo Salvini – reacted to the first and second lockdowns on their Twitter accounts, communicating directly to their people. The analysis was carried out following a combined qualitative and quantitative approach to discourse. The qualitative analysis focused on comparing populist leaders’ rhetorical and semiotic choices, while the quantitative analysis observed the response by the community of common Twitter users. This work aims on the one hand at unveiling the strategic use of social media by populist leaders and on the other at investigating conflictual interactional dynamics, especially in times of crisis.


CADS; CDA; CL; communication; conflict; COVID-19; discourse; language; populism; Twitter

Full Text:



Abt, K., and S. Rummens. 2007. "Populism versus Democracy". Political Studies 55 (2): 405-424.


Acemoglu, D., G. Egorov, and K. Sonin. 2013. "A Political Theory of Populism". The Quarterly Journal of Economics 128 (2): 771-805.


Arienzo, A., P. Chiantera-Stutte, e S. Visentin, eds. 2021. "Introduzione. Covid/19 e politica. Note sul presente". Politics. Rivista di studi politici (Special Issue) 15 (1): 67-73.

Blassnig, S., N. Ernst, S. Engesser, and F. Esser. 2020. "Populism and Social Media Popularity: How Populist Communication Benefits Political Leaders on Facebook and Twitter". In Power Shift? Political Leadership and Social Media, edited by R. Davis and D. Taras, 97-111. London: Routledge.


Bobba, G., and N. Hubé, eds. 2021. Populism and the Politicization of the COVID-19 Crisis in Europe. London: Pagrave Macmillan.


Bracciale, R., and A. Martella. 2017. "Define the Populist Political Communication Style: The Case of Italian Political Leaders on Twitter". Information, Communication & Society 20 (9): 1310-1329.


Brubaker, R. 2021. "Paradoxes of Populism during the Pandemic". Thesis Eleven 164 (1): 73-87.


Charteris-Black, J. 2011. Politicians and Rhetoric: The Persuasive Power of Metaphor. London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Engesser, S., et al. 2017. "Populism and Social Media: How Politicians Spread a Fragmented Ideology". Information, Communication & Society 20 (8): 1109-1126.


Ernst, N., et al. 2017. "Extreme Parties and Populism: An Analysis of Facebook and Twitter across Six Countries". Information, Communication & Society 20 (9): 1347-1364.


Farage, N. [@Nigel_Farage] (2020, March 23). Twitter.


Farage, N. [@Nigel_Farage] (2020, March 24a). Twitter.


Farage, N. [@Nigel_Farage] (2020, March 24b). Twitter.


Farage, N. [@Nigel_Farage] (2020, March 26). Twitter.


Farage, N. [@Nigel_Farage] (2020, March 27). Twitter.


Farage, N. [@Nigel_Farage] (2020, March 29). Twitter.


Farage, N. [@Nigel_Farage] (2020, October 31a). Twitter.


Farage, N. [@Nigel_Farage] (2020, October 31b). Twitter.


Farage, N. [@Nigel_Farage] (2020, November 1). Twitter.


Faulkner, P. 2021. "Lockdown a Case Study in How to Lose Trust and Undermine Compliance". Global Discourse 11 (3): 497-515.


Gerbaudo, P. 2018. "Social Media and Populism: An Elective Affinity?". Media, Culture & Society 40 (5): 745-753.


Giardiello, M. 2021. "Populismi digitali al tempo del Covid-19". Rivista di Digital Politics 1 (2): 341-362.

Hidalgo-Tenorio, E., and M.Á. Benitez-Castro. 2021. "Trump's Populist Discourse and Affective Politics, or on How to Move 'the People' through Emotion". Globalisation, Societies and Education 20 (2): 86-109.


Hidalgo-Tenorio, E., M.Á. Benitez-Castro, and F. De Cesare. 2019. "Introduction. Unraveling Populist Discourse". In Populist Discourse: Critical Approaches to Contemporary Politics, edited by E. Hidalgo-Tenorio, M.Á. Benitez-Castro, and F. De Cesare, 1-13. London: Routledge.


Jagers, J., and S. Walgrave. 2007. "Populism as a Political Communication Style: An Empirical Study of Political Parties' Discourse in Belgium". European Journal of Political Research 32 (3): 344-364.


Jakubíček, M., A. Kilgarriff, V. Kovář, P. Rychlý, and V. Suchomel. 2013. The TenTen corpus family. In 7th International Corpus Linguistics Conference CL, 125-127.

Kazin, M. 1998. The Populist Persuasion: An American History. New York - London: Cornell University Press.

Kilgarriff, A. 2009. "Simple Maths for Keywords". In Proceedings of Corpus Linguistics Conference CL2009, edited by M. Mahlberg, V. González-Díaz, and C. Smith. University of Liverpool.

Kilgarriff, A., et al. 2014. "The Sketch Engine: Ten Years on". Lexicography 1: 7-36.


Krämer, B. 2014. "Media Populism: A Conceptual Clarification and Some Theses on Its Effects". Communication Theory 24: 42-60.


Krämer, B. 2018. "Populism, Media, and the Form of Society". Communication Theory 28: 444-465.


Laclau, E. 2005. On Populist Reason. New York: Verso.

Lasco, G. 2020. "Medical Populism and the COVID-19 Pandemic". Global Public Health 15 (10): 1417-1429.


Lorenzetti, M.I. 2022. "Dramatising Crisis: Rhetorical Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic by Right-Wing Populist Leaders in the USA and UK". Lingue e Linguaggi 47: 13-45.

Machin, D., and A. Mayr. 2012. How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis: A Multimodal Introduction. London: Sage.

March, L. 2017. "Left and Right Populism Compared: The British Case". The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19 (2): 282-303.


Meloni, G. [@GiorgiaMeloni] (2020, March 9). Twitter.


Meloni, G. [@GiorgiaMeloni] (2020, March 10). Twitter.


Meloni, G. [@GiorgiaMeloni] (2020, March 11). Twitter.


Meloni, G. [@GiorgiaMeloni] (2020, March 13). Twitter.


Meloni, G. [@GiorgiaMeloni] (2020, November 3). Twitter.


Meloni, G. [@GiorgiaMeloni] (2020, November 6). Twitter.


Moffitt, B. 2015. "How to Perform Crisis: A Model for Understanding the Key Role of Crisis in Contemporary Populism". Government and Opposition 50 (2): 189-217.


Moffitt, B. 2016. The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style and Representation. Stanford (CA): Stanford University Press.


Mudde, C. 2004. "The Populist Zeitgeist". Government and Opposition 39 (4): 542-563.


Mudde, C., and C.R. Kaltwasser. 2017. Populism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.


Pappas, T., and H. Kriesi. 2015. "Populism and Crisis: A Fuzzy Relationship". In European Populism in the Shadow of the Great Recession, edited by H. Kriesi and T.S. Pappas, 303-325. Colchester (UK): ECPR Press.

Rainer, H., and S. Thomas. 2009. "Does Democracy Foster Trust?". Journal of Comparative Economics 37: 251-269.


Ringe, N., and L. Rennó. 2022. "Populists and the Pandemic: How Populists around the World Responded to COVID-19". In Populists and the Pandemic: How Populists around the World Responded to COVID-19, edited by N. Ringe and L. Rennó, 1-18. London: Routledge.


Ringe, N., L. Rennó, and C.R. Kaltwasser. 2022. "Conclusion". In Populists and the Pandemic: How Populists around the World Responded to COVID-19, edited by N. Ringe and L. Rennó, 273-292. London: Routledge.


Ruzza, C., and S. Fella. 2009. Re-Inventing the Italian Right: Territorial, Politics, Populism and 'Post-Fascism'. London: Routledge.

Salvini, M. [@matteosalvinimi] (2020, March 10). Twitter.


Salvini, M. [@matteosalvinimi] (2020, March 11a). Twitter.


Salvini, M. [@matteosalvinimi] (2020, March 11b). Twitter.


Salvini, M. [@matteosalvinimi] (2020, March 13). Twitter.


Salvini, M. [@matteosalvinimi] (2020, March 14). Twitter.


Salvini, M. [@matteosalvinimi] (2020, November 4). Twitter.


Salvini, M. [@matteosalvinimi] (2020, November 7). Twitter.


Scott, M. 2001. "Mapping Key Words to Problem and Solution". In Patterns of Text: In Honour of Michael Hoey, edited by M. Scott and G. Thompson, 109-128. London: John Benjamins.


Stavrakakis, Y. 2017. "Discourse Theory in Populism Research: Three Challenges and a Dilemma". Journal of Language and Politics 16 (4): 523-534.


Sturgeon N. [@NicolaSturgeon] (2020, March 25a). Twitter.


Sturgeon N. [@NicolaSturgeon] (2020, March 25b). Twitter.


Sturgeon N. [@NicolaSturgeon] (2020, March 28a). Twitter.


Sturgeon N. [@NicolaSturgeon] (2020, March 28b). Twitter.


Sturgeon N. [@NicolaSturgeon] (2020, October 31). Twitter.


Sturgeon N. [@NicolaSturgeon] (2020, November 3). Twitter.


Taggart, P. 2000. Populism. Open University Press.

Taylor, A., and A. Marchi, eds. 2018. Corpus Approaches to Discourse. London: Routledge.

van Dijk, T.A. 1998. Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach. London: Sage.

van Kessel, S., and R. Castelein. 2016. "Shifting the Blame: Populist Politicians' Use of Twitter as a Tool of Opposition". Journal of Contemporary European Research 12 (2): 594-614.


van Leeuwen, T. 2008. Discourse and Practice: New Tools for Critical Discourse Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Weyland, K. 2001. "Clarifying a Contested Concept: Populism in the Study of Latin American Politics". Comparative Politics 34 (1): 1-22.


Wodak R. 2021. "Crisis Communication and Crisis Management during COVID-19". Global Discourse 11 (3): 329-353.


DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2023-002-cifa

Copyright (©) 2023 Marco Venuti – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Call for papers Vol 11 (2024) No 1 - Discourses, Methods and Practices of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging: Towards a Global Shared Framework
Edited by Dr. Paola Catenaccio (Università degli Studi di Milano) and Dr. Fadia Nordtveit (Springfield College)

Authors have to read through the Information for Authors and the Author guidelines carefully before beginning the submission process. 
Deadline for papers submission: January 15th, 2024
Request for revision following peer review: by April 15th, 2024
Final versione due by May 15th, 2024
Publication: by June 2024


Call for papers Vol 11 (2024) No 2: “The Language of War: Lexicon, Metaphor, Discourse”
Edited by Dr. Anna Anselmo (Università degli Studi di Ferrara), Prof. Kim Grego (Università degli Studi di Milano), and Prof. Andreas Musolff (University of East Anglia)

Authors have to read through the Information for Authors and the Author guidelines carefully before beginning the submission process.
Deadline for papers submission: June 10th, 2024
Request for revision following peer review: by September 10th, 2024
Final version due by October 10th, 2024
Publication: by December 2024


Lingue Culture Mediazioni - Languages Cultures Mediation
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (27/11/2013 n. 380)
Online ISSN 2421-0293 - Print ISSN 2284-1881

Dipartimento di Lingue, Letterature, Culture e Mediazioni  
Università degli Studi di Milano

Editors-in-Chief: Paola Catenaccio (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Giuliana Garzone (IULM, Milano)
Editorial Board: Marina Brambilla (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Giovanni Garofalo (Università degli Studi di Bergamo) - Dino Gavinelli (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Antonella Ghersetti (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari) - Maria Grazia Guido (Università del Salento) - Elena Liverani (IULM, Milano) - Stefania Maci (Università degli Studi di Bergamo) - Andrea Maurizi (Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca) - Chiara Molinari (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Stefano Ondelli (Università degli Studi di Trieste) - Davide Papotti (Università degli Studi di Parma) - Francesca Santulli (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari) - Girolamo Tessuto (Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli) - Giovanni Turchetta (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Stefano Vicari (Università degli Studi di Genova)
International Scientific Committee: James Archibald (Università degli Studi di Torino) - Natalija G. Bragina (Institut Russkogo Jazyka im. A.S. Puškina; RSUH, Mosca) - Kristen Brustad (University of Texas at Austin) - Luciano Curreri (University of Liège) - Hugo de Burgh (University of Westminster) - Giuditta Caliendo (Université de Lille) - Giorgio Fabio Colombo (Università di Venezia Ca' Foscari) - Daniel Dejica (Universitatea Politehnica Timisoara) - Anna De Fina (Georgetown University, USA) - Claudio Di Meola, (Sapienza Università di Roma) - Lawrence Grossberg (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) - Stephen Gundle (University of Warwick) - Décio de Alencar Guzmán (Universidade Federal do Pará, Belém,  Brasile) - Matthias Heinz (Universität Salzburg) - Rosina Márquez-Reiter (The Open University) - John McLeod (University of Leeds) - Estrella Montolío Durán (Universitat de Barcelona) - M'bare N'gom (Morgan State University, Baltimore) - Daragh O'Connell (Cork University) - Roberto Perin (York University, Toronto) - Giovanni Rovere (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) - Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (University of Edinburgh) - Françoise Sabban (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris) - Kirk St.Amant (Louisiana Tech University, University of Limerick/University of Strasbourg) - Paul Sambre (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) - Srikant Sarangi (Aalborg University) - Junji Tsuchiya (Waseda University, Tokyo) - Xu Shi (Zhejiang University)
Section Managers: Maria Matilde Benzoni, Università degli Studi di Milano (Modern history) - Paola Cotta Ramusino, Università degli Studi di Milano (Russian linguistics and translation) - Mario de Benedittis, Università degli Studi di Milano (Sociology) - Kim Grego Università degli Studi di Milano (English linguistics and translation) - Giovanna Mapelli, Università degli Studi di Milano (Spanish linguistics and translation) - Bettina Mottura, University of Milan (Chinese studies) - Mauro Giacomo Novelli, Università degli Studi di Milano (Contemporary Italian literature and culture) - Letizia Osti, Università degli Studi di Milano (Arab studies) - Maria Cristina Paganoni, Università degli Studi di Milano (English linguistics and translation) - Giuseppe Sergio, Università degli Studi di Milano (Italian linguistics) - Virginia Sica, Università degli Studi di Milano (Japanese studies)

Referee List

© 2001 LED Edizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto