Countering populist rhetoric

Populist parties are often dismissed as having little impact, because they are inherently unwilling to operate the traditional levers to change policy and they shun cooperation with political elites.  But viewing populism through this institutional lens misses out the powerful influence of populist rhetoric on political debate. It is only through a subtle cultural understanding of the different frames, narratives and metaphors at play in populist discourse that the right response to populist arguments can be developed.


In the run-up to the 2014 European Parliament elections, Counterpoint produced a series of briefings to explore the rhetoric of populist parties in real detail. The briefings were designed to help those looking to build a counter-narrative to populist rhetoric in Europe – including politicians and campaigners.

Our briefings analyse the discourse of five populist parties: the Partij voor de Vrijheid, the Lega Nord, the UK Independence Party, the Front National and the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs. They identify the underlying frames used repeatedly in their discourse and analyse how these frames are used in practice. The briefings take as case studies exchanges between populist politicians and other MEPs at plenary debates in the European Parliament. We show how populist discourse works and give examples of how to engage with populist frames productively and convincingly.

Project news


Facing the populist challenge – workshop in Berlin

As part of our ongoing work on populism, we are delighted to run an interactive workshop in Berlin on populism and European democracy with Democratic...

Populist Rhetoric: Austrian Freedom Party

Populist Rhetoric: Austrian Freedom Party

This is the fifth in a series of briefings leading up to the European Parliament elections.

Populist rhetoric: Front National

Populist rhetoric: Front National

This is the fourth of a series of briefings by Counterpoint leading up to the European Parliament elections.


Strategic advice to manage new forms of cultural and social risks

Decoding cultures and making sense of context

Learn more

Interpreting public behaviour and emotions

Learn more

Crafting the right conversations

Learn more

News & events


The Italian Job:  learning to cope with populists?

We are at turning point in the way in which the mainstream deals with populists.   For those of us who have been studying...

people backs

Bonne Année – Local realities of migration: emotions, institutions, conflict and cooperation

Counterpoint explored local and personal experiences of migration in communities across four European countries (France, Germany, Sweden and Italy), and here we set out...


Tentacles of Circumstance: The Political Consequences of Inequality

To explore the complex effects of inequality on European societies, this collection brings together essays by scholars of economic history, sociology, psychology and philosophy....