Welcome to my homepage.

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. I seek to address research questions which are relevant to both the academic as well as the public debate. My major research interest focuses on trying to understand how norms shift in our societies. For instance, I study how the emergence of radical parties changes people’s perception of what can be said in the public discourse. My studies are primarily empirically oriented using research designs which seek to rigorously test theoretical arguments mostly with (quasi-)experimental designs.

cv: here

selected key work:

  • Do Voters Polarize When Radical Parties Enter Parliament?” (with Markus Wagner), American Journal of Political Science: 2019.
    Do voters polarize ideologically when radical views gain political legitimacy, or does the rise of radical voices merely reflect societal conflict? We argue that elite polarization as signaled by radical parties’ first entrance into parliament leads to voter divergence. Immediately after the election, legitimization and backlash effects mean that voters on both ideological sides move toward the extremes. In the longer term, this polarization is solidified because of radical parties’ parliamentary presence. A panel study of Dutch voters shows that the 2002 parliamentary entrance of a radical-right party indeed led to immediate ideological polarization across the political spectrum. Estimating time-series cross-sectional models on Eurobarometer data from 17 countries (1973–2016) shows an additional long-term impact of radical-right party entry on polarization. The presence of radical voices on the right has polarizing effects, illustrating how such institutional recognition and legitimization can have a far-reaching impact on society.
  • Simple Politics for the People? Complexity in Campaign Messages and Political Knowledge” (with Roman Senninger), European Journal of Political Research, 2018. 
    Which parties use simple language in their campaign messages, and do simple campaign messages resonate with voters’ information about parties? This study introduces a novel link between the language applied during election campaigns and citizens’ ability to position parties in the ideological space. To this end, how complexity of campaign messages varies across parties as well as how it affects voters’ knowledge about party positions is investigated. Theoretically, it is suggested that populist parties are more likely to simplify their campaign messages to demarcate themselves from mainstream competitors. In turn, voters should perceive and process simpler campaign messages better and, therefore, have more knowledge about the position of parties that communicate simpler campaign messages. The article presents and validates a measure of complexity and uses it to assess the language of manifestos in Austria and Germany in the period 1945–2013. It shows that political parties, in general, use barely comprehensible language to communicate their policy positions. However, differences between parties exist and support is found for the conjecture about populist parties as they employ significantly less complex language in their manifestos. Second, evidence is found that individuals are better able to place parties in the ideological space if parties use less complex campaign messages. The findings lead to greater understanding of mass-elite linkages during election campaigns and have important consequences for the future analysis of manifesto data.
  • Tabloid media influence on Euroscepticism: Quasi-experimental evidence from England” (with Florian Foos)
    Are citizens’ attitudes towards EU-integration shaped by the tabloid media? The question whether public opinion can be a consequence, rather than a cause of me- dia reports is difficult to answer because citizens self-select into media consumption. We use a quasi-experiment, the boycott of the most important Eurosceptic tabloid newspaper, the Sun, in Merseyside county as a consequence of the newspaper’s re- porting on the 1989 Hillsborough soccer disaster – to identify the effects of the Sun boycott on attitudes towards leaving the EU. Using a difference-in-differences design and British Social Attitudes data spanning three decades, as well as official EU refer- endum results, we show that attitudes towards the EU got significantly more positive in Merseyside during the boycott. We estimate that this effect amounts to around 12 percentage-points. The results of this paper have important implications for our understanding of media effects on public opinion, and suggest that the tabloid media played a role in influencing attitudes towards leaving the EU.

in the media:

Daniel Bischof

Ambizione Grant Holder (Senior Researcher)
Department of Political Science
University of Zurich
Affolternstrasse 56
8050 Zürich

Phone: +41 (0)44 634 58 50