Trump's appeals to populism in immigration tweets

Immigrants as victims, heroes, and threats


  • Joyce Glasscock Kansas State University


As president, Donald Trump wore the mantle of the Republican party; but as a populist, he rejected the party establishment in a feat of “double differentiation” as he enticed through social media a following of discontented Americans for whom populist appeals provided a perceived panacea. Drawn from his tenure as president, this study undertook content analysis of tweets related to immigrants and immigration—a regular target of Trump’s populist framing strategies. During periods leading up to the national midterm election in 2018 and the general election in 2020, Trump portrayed immigrants as threats to America, an approach important for appealing to his populist base. Consistent with that strategy, the former president normalized the practice of negatively framing immigrants to his Twitter audience and bound the topic of immigration to partisan activities that included online campaign endorsements and political attacks.