Publications & Papers

Google scholar profile


How Transnational Party Alliances Influence National Parties’ Policies
with Roman Senninger & Lawrence Ezrow
Political Science Research & Methods

Previous research reports that parties in established European democracies learn from and emulate successful parties abroad. We theorize and show that belonging to the same European Parliament party group enhances learning and emulation processes between national political parties.

Do Legislative Agendas Respond to Public Opinion Signals?
with Luca Bernardi & Ruud Wouters
Journal of European Public Policy

Legislators adapt their policies and agendas to public priorities. Yet research on dynamic representation usually focuses on the influence of public opinion through surveys leaving out other public opinion signals. We incorporate mobilization of the public through protest. Combining insights from social movement studies and political science, we expect protest not to have a direct effect on attention change in legislative agendas. If anything protest should have an amplification effect on public priorities. Using a new and unique data set covering collective action, public opinion and legislative agendas across almost 40 years in four Western democracies, we confirm the effect of public opinion through surveys but find no support for a direct effect of protest. Protest rarely moves legislators: only in very specific issues will protest interact with public priorities and affect attention change in legislative agendas. Our results have important implications for policy representation.

What Makes Parties Adapt to Voter Preferences? The Role of Party Organisation, Goals and Ideology
with Markus Wagner
British Journal of Political Science

A landmark finding in recent research on party competition is that parties differ in how they react to public opinion shifts.1 In their influential study, Adams et al.2 find that niche parties – which they define as communist, green and radical-right parties – fail to track changes in the median voter position, while other (mainstream) parties do respond to such changes. They do not argue that something inherent to these three party families makes them less likely to follow changes in the median voter position. Instead, they suggest that these party families tend to prioritize policy over office and tend to be activist led, which explains why they do not track the median voter. In this research note, we replicate and extend their analysis but replace their simple dichotomy based on party families with the party differences that they argue drive the pattern they find: party goals and party organization. We also add a third aspect of niche parties not alluded to by Adams et al.,3 party ideology, specifically the extent to which parties focus on niche issues. All three of these mechanisms may contribute to the pattern they found. Our analysis examines how these three aspects of parties act as mechanisms connecting median voter change to party policy change and thereby contributes to the ongoing scholarly debate over which party characteristics drive party responsiveness to voters.

Do Voters Polarize when Radical Parties Enter Parliament?
with Markus Wagner
American Journal of Political Science

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.

The P-value Debate in Social Science: An Introduction to the Dos and Don’ts
with Mariken van der Velden 
Swiss Political Science Review
(guest editor of special issue)

P-values are the most frequently employed metric to assess the significance of statistical findings in the social sciences. Since the earliest years of their usage the meaning and usefulness of p-values were topics of heated discussion (Berkson 1942; Fisher 1935). Lately the reproduction/replication crisis resuscitated this debate (Benjamin et al. 2018; Gelman 2018; Lakens et al. 2018; McShane et al. 2019; Nuzzo 2014; Trafimow and Marks 2015). Meanwhile, the skepticism has not stopped at the gates of political science. Most prominently the journal “Political Analysis” banned p-values “in regression tables or elsewhere” after the new editor took over the board of editors in 2017 (Gill 2018: 1).1 Also political scientists contributed to a swelling debate suggesting to lower the threshold for p- values to 0.005 (Benjamin et al. 2018; Esarey 2017). 

Party Policy Diffusion in the European Multilevel Space: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It Matters
with Roman Senninger & Fabio Wolkenstein
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties

Almost since the end of World War II, transnational cooperation among political parties has been a common feature of European politics. This paper makes the case for studying transnational partisan cooperation in the European multilevel space, focusing in particular on the phenomenon of “party policy diffusion.” At the heart of the paper is a conceptual discussion of party policy diffusion in the EU. Specifically, we look at the (1) aims that lead parties to learn from or emulate parties in other countries; (2) the mechanisms through which this may work; and (3) the wider implications of this practice both for domestic and European politics. Drawing on this conceptual discussion, the paper then goes on to offer leads as to how the phenomenon of party policy diffusion can be studied in the European multilevel space. To this end, we briefly point to possible ways of testing hypotheses about party policy diffusion using spatially explicit modeling strategies such as spatial regression models and exponential random graph models for transnational party networks.

Simple Politics for the People? Complexity in Campaign Messages and Political Knowledge
with Roman Senninger
European Journal of Political Research  

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.

Working in Unison: Political Parties and Policy Issue Transfer in the Multi-Level Space
with Roman Senninger
European Union Politics 

In this study, we examine whether and how policy issues addressed by political parties travel across the national and European legislative arena. We define ‘party policy issue transfer’ as the articulation of similar issues in the work of political parties at different parliamentary venues in short distance of time and argue that issues particularly transfer within the same party. This is mainly so for three reasons: exchange of information between parties across levels, national parties’ attempts to influence European Union policies, and career incentives of representatives at the supranational level. We test our theoretical framework using unique data on parliamentary questions asked by Danish representatives (the Folketing and the European Parliament, 1999–2009) and a dyadic data structure. Our results show that parties’ policy issues—in particular those over which the European Union holds legislative power—transfer across the national and European levels on a regular basis and that issues are more likely to travel within parties.

Ideological Congruence between Party Rhetoric & Policy-Making
West European Politics

Scholars, citizens and journalists alike question whether political parties keep their electoral promises. A growing body of literature provides empirical evidence that parties do indeed keep their electoral pledges. Yet little is known about the congruence between party rhetoric between elections and the policies delivered by them. Given the increasing influence of party rhetoric in the media with respect to voting decisions, it is highly relevant to understand if parties ‘walk like they talk’. The article suggests that due to electoral reasons parties face strong incentives to deliver policy outputs which are congruent to their daily rhetoric. Analysing data on 54 policy outputs on nuclear energy, drafted by 24 parties after the Fukushima accident, the analysis finds overwhelming evidence that parties deliver ideologically congruent policy outputs to their rhetoric (incongruent only in 7.89%). These findings have important implications for our understanding of the linkage between party communication and the masses in modern media democracies.

New Graphic Schemes for Stata: plotplain & plottig
Stata Journal

While Stata’s computational capabilities have intensively increased over the last decade, the quality of its default graphic schemes is still a matter of debate among users. Some of the arguments speaking against Stata’s default graphic design are subject to individual taste but others are not, for example, horizontal labeling, unnecessary background tinting, missing gridlines, and over- sized markers. In this article, I present two new graphic schemes, plotplain and plottig, that attempt to address these concerns. These schemes provide users a set of 21 colors, of which 7 colors are distinguishable for people suffering from color blindness. I also give an introduction on how users can program their own graphic schemes.

The Effects of the Fukushima Disaster on Nuclear Energy Debates and Policies: A Two-Steps Comparative Examination
with Luca Bernardi, Laura Morales & Maarja Lühiste
Environmental Politics

Towards a Renewal of the Niche Party Concept: Parties, Market Shares and Condensed Offers
Party Politics

Scholars’ attention to the concept of niche parties has greatly increased. While researchers agree that niche parties matter in a variety of ways, the definitions and measurements of such parties are manifold and an accordance remains yet to be found. I argue the given conceptualizations of niche parties (a) suffer from gaps between their measurements and theoretical concepts or (b) conceptual clarity. The theoretical concept I propose understands niche parties as (a) predominantly competing on niche market segments neglected by their competitors and (b) not discussing a broad range of these segments. By measuring exactly these two components in an additive index drawn from the MARPOR data, the validation shows that parties emphasizing niche segments differentiate themselves from their competitors also by using a condensed message on these segments. In particular, this component of party competition, the specialization of party offers, has not been studied in the literature on niche parties and should receive more attention.

Repression as a Double-Edged Sword: Resilient Monarchs, Repression and Revolution in the Arab World
with Simon Fink
Swiss Political Science Review

The Arab world shows a puzzling variation of political violence. The region’s monarchies often remain quiet, while other autocracies witness major upheaval. Institutional explanations of this variation suggest that monarchical rule solves the ruler’s credible commitment problems and prevents elite splits. This article argues that institutional explanations neglect the role of repression: increasing the scope of repression raises the costs of rebellion and deters rebels. However, the deterrence effect disappears if repression is used indiscriminately. If remaining peaceful offers no benefits, repression creates new rebels instead of deterring them. A time-series- cross-section analysis of repression and political violence in the Middle East and North Africa corroborates our argument and shows the u-curve relation between repression and violence. Once we control for repression, monarchies have no special effect anymore. Thus, our article addresses the discussion about monarchical exceptionalism, and offers an explanation why repression deters as well as incites political violence.

Minority-Ethnic MPs and the Substantive Representation of Minority Interests in the House of Commons, 2005-2011
with Thomas Saalfeld
Parliamentary Affairs

Black, Asian and minority-ethnic (BAME) citizens are under-represented in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, the Chamber’s ethnic composition has become more reflective of the general population as a result of the 2005 and 2010 parliamentary elections. The article seeks to map and explain variations in the extent to which BAME Members of Parliament (MPs) use the Chamber to ar- ticulate issues relevant to minority constituents. We compare the content of all parliamentary questions for written answer asked by BAME MPs between May 2005 and December 2011 to the questions asked by a matching sample of non-minority legislators. We find that BAME MPs ask more questions relating to the problems and rights of ethnic minorities in, and immigration to, the UK. However, we also find that all British MPs are responsive to the interests of minor- ity constituents where these are geographically concentrated. Building on theor- etical predictions derived from (1) models focusing on MPs’ political socialisation and (2) on the electoral incentives they are facing, we discover that the MPs in our sample respond systematically to electoral incentives, especially in the politically salient area of immigration policy. While these findings are in line with an ‘elect- oral-incentives model’, a ‘socialisation model’ is better suited to explain the larger number of questions on the interests of ethnic minorities asked by Labour MPs.

Working Papers

Do Voters Want Domestic Politicians to Scrutinize the EU?
with Roman Senninger
under review

In the light of important political topics that go beyond the nation state (e.g., migration crisis, climate change, Brexit), domestic politicians are increasingly pressured to scrutinize and speak out on European policy-making. This creates a potential trade-off between allocating effort to domestic and European affairs, respectively. We examine how citizens perceive legislator involvement in European Union (EU) politics with a pre-registered conjoint experiment in Germany. Our results show that Members of Parliament (MPs) are not disadvantaged when allocating effort to European affairs as compared to local and national affairs. In addition, MPs are rewarded for their reform efforts in EU policy-making. As demands for legislator involvement in European politics are on the rise, we provide empirical evidence that MPs can fulfill this demand without being disadvantaged by the electorate.

Wealth of Tongues: Why Peripheral Regions Vote for the Radical Right in Germany
with Daniel Ziblatt & Hanno Hilbig
under 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.

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.

Tabloid Media Campaigns and Public Opinion: Quasi-Experimental Evidence on Euroscepticism in England
with Florian Foos
revise & resubmit: American Political Science Review

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 referendum results, show that the boycott caused EU attitudes to become more positive in treated areas. This effect is driven by cohorts socialized 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.

Out-group Threat and Xenophobic Hate Crimes: Evidence of Local Intergroup Conflict Dynamics between Immigrants and Natives
with Sascha Riaz & Markus Wagner
under review

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.

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

Does military service affect soldiers’ civilian life and political attitudes after service? While a rich body of research investigates the effects of combat participation on draftees’ attitudes, we know little about the effects of military service in the absence of combat. However, a widely shared concern is that the military socializes its draftees into authoritarian values running orthogonal to the values of civilians’ lives in democracies. I identify the causal effect of compulsory military service on recruits’ political attitudes by leveraging the quasi-random assignment of the re-introduced draft in Germany in 1956. Using several data sources I do not find any effects of past military service on current political attitudes. On the contrary, my findings suggest that the introduction of civilian service and suspension of compulsory service make a selection of more conservatively-minded into the army ever more likely. These findings imply that processes of examination and all-encompassing service might forestall such unwanted selection processes based on political ideology.

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.

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.

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

Voter Competence and the Complexity of Political Messages
with Roman Senninger

Attitudes toward Replicability and Error in Science
with Justin Esarey & Michelle Dion

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