I am a SNSF Ambizione Grant Holder (Senior Researcher) at the University of Zurich and an incoming Associate Professor of Political Science at the Department of Political Science at Aarhus University. My major research interest focuses on trying to understand how norms shift in our societies. For instance, in my SNF Ambizione Project I study how the emergence of radical parties changes people’s perception of norms in politics, discourses and behavior (see: here). In my research, I seek to address research questions which are relevant to both the academic as well as the public debate. My studies are primarily empirically oriented using research designs which seek to rigorously test theoretical arguments mostly with (quasi-)experimental designs.
Local political campaigning appears as a crucial mobilization strategy for emerging challenger parties and political movements. Yet, existing research focuses on elite-driven campaigns commonly following a national strategy. In addition, a lack of appropriate data hampers rigorous research on the impact of decentralized local campaigning. Using geocoded event data on over 200,000 instances of local political activism by an important rising challenger party — the Italian Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) — we study the effect and mechanisms of local campaigning during a watershed moment in Italian politics — the 2016 constitutional referendum. Relying on regression, matching, and instrumental variable models, we first demonstrate that local M5S mobilization significantly increased opposition to the referendum. Moreover, our data allows for a detailed inspection of the mechanisms behind this effect. It is driven by hyper-local mobilization without spillovers into neighboring municipalities and a reinforcement of like-minded citizens mobilized at public outdoor events.
Why do voters for the radical right tend to cluster in specific geographic locations? Many scholars have emphasized the economic roots of radical right support. Other scholarship highlights the role of the urban-rural divide, contending that the radical right finds support in low population density locations due to distinctive social values and strong place-based social identities found in rural areas. To date, however, we do not have a full grasp of the sources of these latter factors nor an understanding of the historical roots that explain their emergence. We argue that what is frequently classified as the “rural” bases of radical right support in previous research is in part a proxy for something entirely different: communities that were in the historical “periphery” in the center-periphery conflicts that shaped modern nation-state formation. Inspired by a classic state-building literature that emphasizes the prevalence of a “wealth of tongues” (Weber 1976)—or nonstandard linguistic dialects in a region—as a definition of the periphery, we use data from more than 725,000 geo-coded responses in a linguistic survey in Germany to show that voters from historically peripheral geographic communities are more likely to vote for the radical right today.
Whether powerful media outlets have consequential effects on public opinion has been at the heart of theoretical and empirical discussions about the media’s role in political life. The effects of media campaigns are difficult to study because citizens self-select into media consumption. Using a quasi-experiment – the 30-years boycott of the most important Eurosceptic tabloid newspaper, “The Sun”, in Merseyside caused by the Hillsborough soccer disaster – we identify the effects of “The Sun” boycott on attitudes towards leaving the EU. Difference-in-differences designs leveraging public opinion data spanning three decades, supplemented by official refer- endum results, show that the boycott caused EU attitudes to become more positive in treated areas. This effect is driven by cohorts socialised under the boycott, and by working class voters who stopped reading “The Sun”. Our findings have implications for our understanding of public opinion, media influence, and ways to counter such influence, in contemporary democracies.