A social identity approach to how elite outgroups are invoked by politicians and the media in nativist populism

John Shayegh*, Lesley Storey, Rhiannon Turner, John Barry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
144 Downloads (Pure)


Existing research into nativist populist (NP) rhetoric has shown that elite outgroups can be used by politicians to further anti-immigration agendas. The social identity functions of elite outgroups outside of cultivating anti-immigrant prejudice, however, remain poorly understood. In addition, whether populist news media can be considered social identity entrepreneurs in their own right remains an underexplored topic. This study examines the rhetorical use of elite outgroups in the U.K., U.S. and Australia from a social identity perspective, focusing on political leaders and newspapers op-eds. Our findings demonstrate shared strategies across the countries and source types: (1) NPs depict elites as working through collusion to undermine trust in information production within society and vie for control of the ingroup informational influence; (2) NPs present themselves as non-elite and more ingroup prototypical on dimensions relevant to the elite collusion (being under attack and equally susceptible); (3) NPs contest ingroup norms through constructions of an anti-immigrant consensus which is suppressed by elites. We conclude that social identity researchers should pay more attention to the rhetorical functions of elite outgroups in addition to cultivating anti-immigrant prejudice, and that the media-as-identity-entrepreneur is an important aspect of constructing shared social realities, and mobilising support, within populism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1009-1025
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date06 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2022


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