Dr Lone Sorensen

Dr Lone Sorensen


I joined the University of Leeds in 2020 as a lecturer.

I completed my PhD on a communication approach to populism at the University of Leeds in 2018 on a University Research Scholarship. I then held a position at the University of Huddersfield before rejoining Leeds.

Previous to my academic career, I worked in publishing and online communication as a content manager, web editor and writer and owned and managed an eco-hotel and associated development projects in the Malawian rainforest.

I have previously participated in a number of international projects and networks: the COST Action on Populist Political Communication in Europe (2013-2018) and the EU-funded Media, Conflict and Democratisation (MeCoDEM) project (2013-2018).

I co-convene the school’s Political Communication Research Group and the PSA Populism Specialist Group. I am a member of the Political Performance Network formed between the University of Leeds and the University of Warwick. I have published a number of journal articles, book chapters and handbook entries on populism, democratisation and mediatisation, and democratic listening on social media. My first book, Populist Communication: Ideology, Performance, Mediation, was published with Palgrave in 2021 and won the ICA Global Communication and Social Change Division’s Best Book Award in 2022.

I am currently leading an AHRC-funded Research, Development and Engagement Fellowship titled ‘Mediated climate change politics in the post-truth era: the epistemology and performance of contested digital truth claims’


  • Assessment Lead (undergraduate)

Research interests

My current research is concerned with communicative pathologies of liberal representative democracy and sits at the intersection of the fields of political communication, social media and political epistemology. Specifically, it looks at how political truth claims travel online in the context of the Net Zero debate in the UK. My contribution to the burgeoining field of populism studies is an understanding of populism from a communication perspective and the development of new methods to study political performance and, specifically, digital communications from a media ecology perspective.

In my new research I am beginning to look at communicative pathologies of democracy as manifest symptoms of the current tension between liberalism and democracy and the changing nature of political meaning-making in the new media ecology. My main concern is with the ways in which political elites (or, in the case of populists, anti-elites) articulate, address and in some cases enhance citizen concerns with representative democracy. I focus on the central role that social media play in politicians’ performative repertoires, enabling them to communicate their authenticity and establish their own legitimacy in new ways. A second strand of research is concerned with the epistemic dimension of political claim-making and the contestation over knowledge claims and knowledge types that characterises the ‘post-truth’ political communication environment. In a recent pilot study, I looked at how such epistemic struggles manifest themselves in political claims about the UK government’s Net Zero strategy and the cost of living crisis and how these claims were evaluated by citizens. This is what I am taking forward in my current AHRC-funded project.

My research agenda can be summarised as the following three strands of interest:

  1. Populist politicians and their affinity with the media ecology, especially the ways in which populists’ meaning-making practices interact with populist ideas and with different democratic contexts and media environments.
  2. Political elites’ appeals to citizens’ sense of diminishing political agency and feelings of efficacy. I’m particularly interested in the ways in which democratic and historical context shape political narratives of democracy
    and liberalism in and beyond Western democracies.
  3. The rise of mediated authenticity in performances of political representation and contested notions of truth in politics. This strand of my research agenda will query the changing epistemological
    landscape in which political elites rely on different forms of truth-telling in attempts to inspire public agency and pseudo-agency, and in which citizens search for evidence to substantiate their personal political
    narratives by navigating a destabilised media environment. 
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Populist Communication in Comparative Perspective (University of Leeds)
  • MA International Communication (University of Leeds)
  • BA English (University of Copenhagen)

Student education

My teaching in the school connects to my research interests in political communication, media and communication theory and mixed methods. I teach across a range of modules at postgraduate level in these areas.

My office hours are Monday 1.30PM – 3.30PM during term time. Students can book an appointment using this link: https://calendly.com/lonesorensen/15min (please do not email or message to book an appointment unless these times are not accessible to you).

I consider new PhD candidates wishing to investigate the topics of populism, post-truth, mis/disinformation, conspiracy theories, and digital politics more broadly. I’m interested in supervising a range of methodological approaches, including qualitative, ethnographic and mixed digital methods, as well as quali-quantitative methods like controversy analysis.

Research groups and institutes

  • Political Communication
  • Digital Cultures
  • Global Communication

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>