Narrative congruence between populist President Duterte and the Filipino public: Shifting global alliances from the US to China

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This research examines what happened when the populist Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reversed his country's global alliance, switching loyalties away from the United States towards China. We use the lens of narrative congruence, to see if political storylines of a populist president are accompanied by similar shifts in storylines among his followers. Our data corpus consists of text from Duterte's speeches and from comments on partisan Facebook pages, representing supporters and opponents of the president. We time‐bound our data corpus to text produced around the time President Duterte announced his realignment towards China. We use text mining and network analysis to identify overlaps among words used by the different social actors. Our findings show that when Duterte switched alliances, Facebookers—regardless of partisanship—accepted this alliance shift. However, our results likewise reveal an imperfect congruence. Duterte's followers move on to a story criticizing Duterte's domestic political enemies, whereas anti‐Duterte Facebookers talk about monetary deals and drug issues in the Philippines' newfound friendship with China. We discuss our findings in the light of a psychology of populism, the use of a discursive social networks approach to study macropsychological phenomena, and discursive resistance in a populist state.