This study explores populism in terms of communication while distinguishing between its ideological and stylistic dimensions. We examine the social media communication of the three main Italian political leaders during the last national electoral campaign to underline the differences and similarities in their use of populist communication in terms of ideology and style and assess how it affects Facebook and Twitter engagement. Our analysis shows that the three leaders all adopt populist communication styles but in slightly different ways. In all cases, populist style elements have a stronger impact on online engagement than populist ideology. The main difference between social media seems to be related less to the leaders’ communication elements than to their platform-specific audiences’ positive reactions to populist communication strategies.
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