Philipp Müller, Ruben L. Bach
Populist alternative news use and its role for elections: Web-tracking and survey evidence from two campaign periods

New Media & Society, In Press: (publ. online before print)
ISSN: 1461-4448 (print), 1461-7315 (online)

This study explores voters’ populist alternative news use during (different types of) democratic elections and investigates starting points for preventing potentially harmful effects. We draw from two combined data sets of web-tracking and survey data which were collected during the 2017 German Bundestag campaign (1523 participants) and the 2019 European Parliamentary election campaign in Germany (1009 participants). Results indicate that while populist alternative news outlets drew more interest during the first-order election campaign, they reached only 16.5% of users even then. Moreover, most users visited their websites rather seldom. Nonetheless, our data suggest that alternative news exposure is strongly linked to voting for (right-wing) populist parties. Regarding the origins of exposure, our analyses punctuate the role of platforms in referring users to populist alternative news. About 40% of website …