Austria – supporting the FPÖ to protect Austria

Publication: Contribution to conferenceConference paper


This chapter focuses on voter motivation in the Austrian context of the EU election 2019. The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) has been considered the most successful populist party in Austria (Ötsch & Pühringer, 2017). Thus, postings made in response to the FPÖ’s Facebook content are examined to identify key issues respondents cite as motivating their support for this party. Viewing populism as “an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups” (Mudde, 2004, p. 543), this chapter also examines whether such collective identities are constructed. The original FPÖ content is also taken into account to observe how the party’s input might be recontextualised by supporters.
The data consist of comments made in response to three FPÖ postings. First, an FPÖ posting calling for people to vote for the party (7 May, 35 comments); second, a livestream of the FPÖ election campaign’s opening event (26 April, 447 comments); and third, the presentation of the party’s campaign posters (23 April, 515 comments). I use Atlas.Ti to code arguments cited as motivating support for the FPÖ and examine the argument structure to see if and how it relates to the original FPÖ posting. Additionally, I examine the representation of social actors focusing on who is referred to and what in-group(s) and out-group(s) are constructed.
Key issues that motivate support for the FPÖ are immigration to Austria, and the FPÖ as the party that protects Austrian interests “in Brüssel” (‘in Brussels’). Here, multiple comments refer to protecting “Heimat” (‘homeland’) – a term that has “multiple and problematic connotations due to its appropriation for nationalistic ends” (Eigler & Kugele, 2012, p. 2). The social actors that allegedly pose a threat to this ‘Heimat’ are various parties and their voters, asylum seekers and the EU itself. In this context, the equivocal use of ‘we’ is striking: on the one hand, it serves as in-group marker for FPÖ supporters who band together against these threats. On the other hand, ‘we’ refers to all Austrians (even ones who vote for other parties), who are contrasted with and threatened by the EU and by immigrants (Bull & Fetzer, 2006). Finally, it is worth noting that, in its postings, the FPÖ repeatedly invokes the family metaphor in reference to the FPÖ and its supporters. Arguably, this impacts the way commenters respond not merely in terms of the collective ‘we’ but also in the way the supporters address FPÖ politicians, i.e. by their first name.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventCADAAD - Brimingham
Duration: 6 Jul 20219 Jul 2022



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