Making America Great, Again through memes: a qualitative content analysis of a Trump-based populism in user-generated memes



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Tartu Ülikool


Although populism is much-discussed, global trend, attempts to define it have been contentious, unsatisfactory, and often accomplished without the input of the populists themselves. The latest emergence of this political phenomenon has often been linked to “online opportunities” (Engesser et. al, 2017) which help to facilitate and spread such populist ideologies. One strand, a Trump based populism, has even been blamed on the supporters’ use of internet memes leading up to the election, and cited in Trump’s ultimate victory. This research examines the use of such memes to define the content of this ideology from the populi, themselves. Using Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA), it will attempt to discover how the people who make and use memes in support of Donald Trump, define their own ideology by looking at indicators of the “others,” the “general will,” “the people,” and the “elites.” Memes were taken and analyzed from The_Donald subreddit, from which a definition is composed and several insights pertaining to memes are highlighted. This ideological construction is useful when trying to understand elements of populism in the digital age, and works as a record of an emerging and misunderstood political phenomenon.