Publication details [#19038]

Keating, John. 2021. Populist discourse and active metaphors in the 2016 US presidential elections. Intercultural Pragmatics 18 (4) : 499–531.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language


In recent years, the specter of populism has grown increasingly restless in the Western world and beyond. This new populism has been observed in different political movements in Europe; the Brexit movement in the UK, Podemos and Vox in Spain, Rassemblement National in France, Partij voor de Vrijheid in the Netherlands, and Viktor Orbán’s illiberal democracy in Hungary. Inevitably, it is most commonly associated with the election of Donald Trump as president of the USA in 2016. In this paper, a pragmatic interaction theory of metaphorical utterances is applied to a corpus of speeches given by candidates during the American 2016 presidential elections. First, speeches and candidates were graded for populism according to a holistic grading method. Secondly, speeches were analyzed using quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate if and how active metaphorical language was used to construct the populist frame. The findings suggest that active metaphors can be useful for politicians who wish to counter the dominant conventional frames, and so can serve the ideological purposes of populists and non-populists alike. Therefore, this paper also argues that novel metaphorical concepts and active metaphorical utterances make important contributions to the communication of ideologies in political discourse and should not be overlooked by analysts.