Working Papers

Wealth of Tongues: Why Peripheral Regions Vote for the Radical Right in Germany
with Daniel Ziblatt & Hanno Hilbig
revise & resubmit: American Political Science Review
[Presentation at europow

Why do voters for the radical right appear to cluster in rural communities? This paper argues 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 of 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.

Out-group Threat and Xenophobic Hate Crimes: Evidence of Local Intergroup Conflict Dynamics between Immigrants and Natives
with Sascha Riaz & Markus Wagner
revise & resubmit: American Journal of Political Science 

This study examines the relationship between crimes attributed to immigrants and xenophobic hate crimes against refugees at the local level. We argue that localized crime events attributed to immigrants can lead to xenophobic responses whereby natives exact retribution against uninvolved out-group members. We examine such intergroup conflict dynamics between immigrants and natives in Germany, a country that has experienced a sharp increase in both the foreign-born population and hate crimes in recent years. Our empirical analysis leverages fine-grained geo-coded data on more than 9,400 hate crimes and 60,000 immigrant-attributed crime events between 2015 and 2019. Using a regression discontinuity in time design (RDiT), we show that the daily probability of hate crimes doubles in the immediate aftermath of an immigrant crime event in a local community. Our results speak to growing concerns about xenophobic violence in Western democracies.

Does Local Campaigning Matter?
with Thomas Kurer
under review

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.

Simple Messages Benefit Voters’ Knowledge and Politicians’ “Down-to-Earthiness”: Evidence From a Large-Scale Survey Experiment
with Roman Senninger
available upon request

Public discourse is increasingly concerned with the way how politicians communicate. This is fuelled by a new generation of politicians like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and representatives of populist parties who evidently communicate less sophisticated than mainstream politicians. However, the question whether and how linguistic styles affect citizens is largely unexplored. We argue that both citizens and politicians might benefit from simple political communication. First, mechanically citizens should have a better chance to understand political positions if political discourse is less sophisticated. Second, linguistic simplicity can function as a heuristic for voters: it can signal that politicians are amongst `the people’ instead of being part of the `elites’. We test our arguments using a pre-registered three-wave vignette survey experiment in Germany. Our findings reveal that simple messages (as compared to sophisticated messages) indeed increase citizens’ comprehension of political positions. Moreover, we find that citizens use language sophistication as a heuristic to fill informational gaps about politicians. Politicians who communicate less sophisticated are perceived to have rather modest socioeconomic backgrounds. As a result, the use of simple language can benefit politicians’ claims to belong to the people instead of the elite. Our findings add important new insights to our understanding of the effects of political communication in contemporary democracies.

The Consequences of Punishing Political Ideologies in Democracies – Evidence from Employment Bans in Germany
with Vicente Valentim
available upon request

How can states counter growing political extremism? We look at the effect of states persecuting radical individuals by studying the case of the radical decree in Germany. Implemented in 1972, this policy allowed individuals with connections to extremist groups to be banned from working in the public sector. Drawing upon a newly collected dataset of individuals targeted by the bans, we run regression and instrumental variable models to estimate the effect of such bans on the political behavior of German citizens. In particular, we look at the long term effects of the bans by estimating its effects on establishing the Green party, formed a few years after the policy was first implemented. We find that counties that experienced bans are significantly more likely to vote for the Green party while voting on other parties remained largely unaffected. The effect is stronger in regions that were more leftist, politicized, and more public sector workers. We also find that the bans increased protest behavior. Our findings have implications for the sets of policies democracies can use to ensure their institutional survival.

How Perception of Support Drives Vote Switching to Challenger Parties
with Denis Cohen

The normalization of challenger rhetoric and politics has had decisive transformative impact on Western party systems over the course of the past 50 years. Challenger parties campaigning on messages initially considered outside the range of acceptability have increasingly cast off the stigma of societal and political ostracism and have come to enjoy sizable and overt electoral support. In this paper, we seek to add to our understanding about the mechanisms underlying this process of normalization and legitimization. We argue that the initial exceedance of expected electoral support legitimizes challengers in the eyes of citizens. As a result, voters will be more likely to disclose their support for these parties and treat them like viable alternatives to established parties. Specifically, we hypothesize that challenger parties’ electoral overperformance relative to the average pre-election polls sends a strong signal of legitimacy, which leads to both lower levels of underreporting in vote choice for these parties in post-election surveys and higher levels of disclosed vote switching from established mainstream parties to radical challengers. These mechanisms of dynamic normalization will be most pronounced when radical parties first break through into national party systems. We test our arguments using a newly compiled data set that marries a large collection of post-election surveys with pre-election polls and official election results.

The Political Legacies of Military Service: Evidence From a Natural Experiment
available upon request

Lost in Transition – Where Are All the Social Democrats Today?
with Thomas Kurer 
prepared for an edited volume by Silja Häusermann and Herbert Kitschelt 
available upon request
[FES Policy Brief]

This chapter follows individual voter flows using panel data for Social Democrats in Germany (1984-2018), the United Kingdom (1990-2018) and Switzerland (1999-2018). In doing we provide a long-running perspective on a vibrant and ongoing discussion about voter flows. More specifically, we try to understand where initial voters of the Social Democrats are today and to what extent out-transitions depend on the political supply side both cross-nationally and over time. We find: 1) Social Democrats manage to keep some of their core 2) but a lot of their core gets de-mobilized or moves on to more progressive options (Greens, LibDem, Green Liberal Party). 3) Social Democrats struggle to attract new voters in all three countries we study, less so in Switzerland which we think is at least partly due to the progressive offer provided by the SP. In contrast, the German SPD loses to everyone and gains almost nothing.

Targeting the Left Behind? Place-Based Policies and Regional Inequality
with Valentin Lang & Nils Redeker
available upon request

Against the backdrop of rising inequality, many states implement place-based policies aimed at supporting regions that are lagging behind economically. While scholarly work provides ample evidence of the general economic effect of such policies, we know little about the distributional effects of them. Yet, it is crucial to know for policy-making who specifically benefits from place-based policies and if they economically help the few or the many. To address this question we study the world’s most voluminous placed-based policy, the European Union’s (EU) Structural and Cohesion Funds. Based on individual-level data for 15 European countries in the 1989-2016 period, we compile a new dataset on income inequality within European regions. For causal identification we leverage the EU’s eligibility criteria — regions below the 75% percent average of GDP in the EU are eligible — in a fuzzy regression discontinuity design. We identify a substantial, positive effect of EU funds on incomes that is largest for the relatively poor. Our results indicate that place-based policies can reduce inequality both across and within regions and can lift the incomes of the left-behind.

The Political Effects of Local Economic Investment Policies: Evidence from a Natural Experiment
with Nils Redeker, Guido Ropers & Moritz Marbach

Across economies in the OECD, regional disparities within countries are growing. Governments frequently seek to address these disparities with place-based compensation policies. Yet, we know little about the long-term political and economic consequences of cutting back economic subsidies that are often part of place-based policies. This is surprising, as the last decades have to a large extent been shaped by a decline in the funds governments provides to less developed regions. In this paper we study the political repercussions of cutting a large-scale place-based policy in Germany intended to support municipalities at the Iron Curtain. Using difference-in-differences and regression discontinuity designs, we find that cutting place-based policies decreases turnout in affected regions by about one percentage point. This demobilization effect is not accompanied by decreasing voting for mainstream parties but might in the long-run result in increasing votes for parties at the periphery. Our findings thus show that prematurely cutting regional assistance to deprived regions has long-term detrimental political effects. This has implications for our understanding of the electoral effects of place-based policies as well as the extent to which incumbents can manage the political consequences of lasting structural change in the economy.

Seeking the Personal Vote: How Legislators Exploit the Party Line
with Florian Foos, Sarah Cohen, Gidon Cohen, Patrick Kuhn, Kyriaki Nanou, Nick Visalvanich & Nick Vivyan

We conducted a large-scale field experiment on British Members of the House of Commons to test how MPs communicate with constituents when asked to explain their policy positions on 9 issues, ranging from a 2nd referendum on Brexit, over immigration, to tuition fees. We hypothesize that MPs should typically take credit for policy positions that are congruent with the constituent, even if they follow party policy, and that they should `hide behind the party’ – i.e., frame responses more in terms of party rather than personally — when they do respond to incongruent constituents.

The Economic Costs of Revolution
with Tobias Rommel

Several studies scrutinize the potential causes and reasons for rebellion and revolution. Yet, substantially less research systematically examines the consequences of revolution. We address this gap by investigating the direct economic effects of revolutions. Since revolutions induce far-reaching uncertainty on a variety of levels — e.g., political preferences of the new support coalition or bilateral and multilateral relations with other countries — domestic economies suffer. Also revolutions frequently are motivated by inequalities which revolutionaries seek to remove after a successful revolution. Using a time-series-cross-sectional approach we investigate the short and long term consequences of revolutions on economic growth and inequality. We find that there is a substantial negative effect of revolutions on the economy, which amounts to a contraction of the economy of about 2%. This result is even more pronounced when applying generalized synthetic control methods to the same data. Notably however, we do not find that the negative effect on the economy is long-term. And we also do not find that income inequality decreases, which is a primary objective of revolutionary attempts in the first place. Although confined to revolutions only, our results are important for understanding the consequences of regime change in general.


Ongoing Projects

Does Exposure to Radical Right Rallies Affect Political Behavior and Preferences?

Where Do All the Radical Right Voters Come From? 
with Thomas Kurer

The Formative Effect of Being at War as a Child 


Dormant Working Papers

Elections as Information: Evidence from Google Trends
with Markus Wagner & Martin Fenz

How Parties of Niche Origin Become Junior Coalition Partners
with Patrick Dumont & Kaare Strøm

The Randomness of Issue Ownership Theories: How External Shocks Drive Public Perception of Party Competence

Taking the Risk to Politicize Europe. How the Prospect of Losing Power Affects Issue Entrepreneurship
with Tarik Abou-Chadi & Markus Wagner

Does Timing Matter? The Electoral Cycle & Parties’ Rhetorical Reactions to Public Claims