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, I study how the emergence of radical parties changes people’s perception of what can be said in the public discourse. 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.
Political parties have long thrived on systematic grassroots mobilization of support. But does traditional partisan bottom-up mobilization still matter in an interconnected digital age turning the world into a `global village’? We address this question by studying the impact of the populist Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) on the rejection of the 2016 constitutional referendum in Italy. The movement’s unusual practice to coordinate activities on a public event platform provides a unique opportunity to collect the complete event history of a modern political party. We merge this data consisting of over 200’000 geo-coded meetings by 1’000 local chapters with referendum results and individual panel data. Relying on regression, matching, and instrumental variable models, we find a small but consistent effect of M5S activity on the referendum outcome. Our findings demonstrate the continued relevance of bottom-up mobilization and highlight direct democratic means as an influential channel for populist movements.
What explains the radical right’s electoral success? We propose that voters in “parochial” regions are more predisposed to voting for radical-right parties. We define “parochialism'” as a geographic community where voters possess strong place-based social identities characterized by four attributes: low contact with outsiders; strong in-group ties; hostility towards outsiders; and, above all, high dialectal distance from the national standard language. We measure place-based social identity with 725,000 responses to a unique survey of regional German dialects. Using aggregate and individual-level data, we demonstrate that dialectal distance from the national standard language strongly predicts voting for the radical-right AfD party. Our contribution is two-fold. First, we clarify the concept of place-based social identity and its connection to parochialism as a source of radical-right voting. Drawing on recent research in socio-linguistics, we demonstrate that dialects are a useful measure of social identity not previously used to explain political behavior.
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.