Making sense of populist hyperreality in the post-truth age: Evidence from Volodymyr Zelensky's voters
Building upon the literature on new information environments, this article explores how citizens make sense of hyperreal politics. To that end, it turns to the particularly illustrative case of Volodymyr Zelensky's 2019 presidential campaign, characterized by the complex fusion of fact and fiction, unclear truth statements, and prevalence of populist narratives. In 25 in-depth, semi-structured interviews, the article examines how Zelensky's voters and viewers of the Servant of the People – a
... evision comedy series featuring Zelensky in the role of the Ukrainian President – interpreted the populist hyperreality of the series, navigated between various mediated representations of Zelensky, and evaluated him and his fictional counterpart after the former became the President of Ukraine in reality. The findings show that the populist hyperreality of the series affected not only its viewers' desire to vote for Zelensky, but also their overall perception of the Ukrainian politics by highlighting some of its aspects and ignoring others. The obtained data also suggest that for most interviewees, there was no strict demarcation between the images of Holoborodko, Zelensky-actor and Zelensky-politician. The study points to the need to reassess our understanding of informed citizenship in the new information environments.