Work in Progress


Never Mind, I'll Find Someone Like Me: The Relationship between Perceived Representation and Populist Attitudes

With Christopher Wratil

The rise of populism is often linked to representation gaps. Due to endogeneity between populism and perceptions of representation, this has been hard to test causally. We use an experiment manipulating voters’ perceptions of representation in order to identify their causal effect on populist sentiment on representative samples from 12 European countries (n = 23,725). Respondents are first asked to state their preference on two EU policy issues. Next, they read a vignette about how parties in their countries have sorted themselves on it during the European elections, which can indicate either that at least one party has taken the respondent’s position on that issue, or that no party has done so. We also vary whether parties have all taken the same position, or if they assumed different views from each other, and follow with questions on populist attitudes. Results show that poor representation is connected to higher populist attitudes among individuals who were not populist to begin with, and are the first causally identified confirmation that the cartelisation of European parties contributed to recent populist successes.

The working paper is available here.

Measuring Populist Discourse: The Global Populism Database

With Kirk A. Hawkins, Rosario Aguilar, Erin K. Jenne, Bojana Kocijan, and Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser

This research note introduces the Global Populism Database, which measures the level of populism in the discourse of 215 chief executives (Presidents and Prime Ministers) from 66 countries across all continents. The dataset covers 279 government terms and includes more than 1,000 speeches, mostly between 2000 and 2018. We describe the data and data generation process and move to give the broadest description of the level of populism by leaders of government in the world. We give a few examples of how the dataset can be applied, for example to investigate the causes of populism (such as corruption and economic crisis) or to identify the policy consequences of populism (such as economic collapse, increased corruption, political participation, and the erosion of basic democratic freedoms). This dataset promises to serve as a useful tool in determining the role of leader rhetoric in the spatial and temporal variation of populism.

The working paper is available here.

Social Media and Politics

Birds in the Cage: Explaining Legislators' Use of Social Media in Europe

With Sven-Oliver Proksch

Social media presents politicians with more communication opportunities than ever before, but the question remains if it relates to traditional forms of political communication. We propose that it can serve two possible goals: as a 'substitute' channel for politicians and parties to get around constraints existing in other arenas; and as an 'amplifier', used by actors to spread the same message diffused in other media. Using a novel dataset containing all tweets posted by national MPs in the EU-28 over the course of 2018, and contemporary parliamentary speeches from seven countries, we investigate a) whether and how we can use tweets' content to get individual-level estimates of issue positions; b) use that to uncover intra-party dynamics and disagreement over policy; and c) how Twitter behavior, such as rebellion against the party line, translates into real world practices in parliament. We find that sentiment about Europe on Twitter is a valid measure of MPs' Euroskepticism, and that those who dissent from their parties on Twitter get less speaking time in parliament. We also find that, while parties in various systems constrain speaking time for dissidents, those in party-centered systems also exert more control over their MPs' discourse in parliamentary speech, while MPs in candidate-centered systems appear more free to speak their minds.