Populist political advertising in times of pandemic: Framing elites as anti-religious


  • Mihnea S. Stoica Babes-Bolyai University


populism, political advertising, pandemic, Euroscepticism, framing, religion, social media, content analysis, ATLAS.ti


Scientific literature has repeatedly shown that populism feeds on crises, exploiting divisions which grow within societies. Populist narratives that flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic argued that the health crisis is yet another pretext for the “corrupt, globalist elites” to strip ”the honest citizens” of their fundamental values, amongst which those of religious nature. In Romania, the nationalist conservative Alliance for the Unity of Romanians (AUR) won 9 percent of the votes in the parliamentary elections held in December 2020. A newcomer in Romanian politics, AUR vowed to rest its political action on four main pillars, i.e. family, nationhood, faith and liberty – all of them strong religious symbols. Moreover, in its political programme, AUR claims to fight against the persecution that Christianity has allegedly been subjected to in recent decades. The current paper looks into how AUR used political advertising in social media to frame elites as anti-religious, thus illegitimate to represent Romanians or to influence national politics. It is usually that the party’s scapegoating strategy targets high-profile national or supranational political figures (most often European Union officials or institutions), blamed for their loose, if not severed, connections with ordinary citizens. The study also shows that during a crisis, populist political advertising makes extensive use of its religious dimension.

Author Biography

Mihnea S. Stoica, Babes-Bolyai University

Babes-Bolyai University, Department of Communication, Public Relations, and Advertising, Faculty of Political, Administrative and Communication Sciences, Cluj-Napoca, Romania






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