Research

Thematically, my research is focused on three topics: Democracy, immigration and the digitalization of politics - you can read more below. In my research, I think a lot about methods. Some of the methods I use, evaluate, teach and develop further include web data collection, text analysis and other computational methods. I am also a member of the Digital Democracy Lab which allows me to combine one of my favorite topics - democracy and the digitalization of politics - with those methods.

You find selected papers and book chapters by topic below - for an overview of my publications and available working papers, see the publications section of this webpage. I have also added a section on Central-Eastern Europe - while my research looks at different countries and contexts, I am particularly interested in these countries. Finally, during my PhD (which I finished in December 2019), I was part of the POLCON Project on Political Conflict in the Shadow of the Great Recession where I worked on the consequences of the Great Recession for party competition and protest. You can now find our datasets online.

Politics and digital data

In my postdoctoral research, I employ and develop novel methods for the study of questions at the core of political behavior and political communication research with online data. This entails studying how digitalization transforms political processes through its effect on opinion formation as well as finding new methods for the study of political behavior through online data.

Some of my work on this uses Wikipedia - given the platform’s widespread use as an information source, I study the content of Wikipedia pages as well as how users interact with the platform. For example, in one of my projects, I draw on clickstream patterns to study how politicians’ gender shapes citizens’ political information-seeking.

Another part of my work on digital politics studies social media and its agenda-setting capacity for other forms of political discourse. Mostly looking at Switzerland, me and other researchers of the Digital Democracy Lab have studied how social media posts set the agenda for traditional news media and how this has changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can also read a write-up of our experiences with the Lab in our working paper.

Selected work on digital politics:

  • But is she married? Assessing citizens' gendered interest in politicians on Wikipedia, working paper
  • Measuring Reputational Mainstreaming of Radical Right Parties with Wikipedia, with Frederik Hjorth and Fabrizio Gilardi, work in progress
  • Social Media and Political Agenda Setting (with Fabrizio Gilardi, Maël Kubli and Stefan Müller), under review, [preprint]
  • Building Research Infrastructures To Study Digital Technology and Politics: Lessons from Switzerland (with Fabrizio Gilardi, Lucien Baumgartner, Clau Dermont, Karsten Donnay, Mael Kubli, Lucas Leemann and Stefan Müller), under review [preprint]
  • Social Media and Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Switzerland (with Fabrizio Gilardi, Maël Kubli and Stefan Müller), under review [preprint]

Immigration

Having started my PhD in 2015, I quickly became interested how immigration becomes important as a political conflict, particularly in the context of the European refugee crisis. In a study on Hungary with Gergö Tóth and Johannes Wachs, we study why immigration becomes a vote deciding factor even in contexts with little immigration experience. Here, we measure local exposure to immigration to understand both anti-immigration sentiment and changes in voting behavior. On the other hand I also look at the role of radical right parties in politicizing this conflict in the first place. In a study with Sophia Hunger, we investigate the impact of the refugee crisis on immigration salience and positions in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. We also analyze whether mainstream parties have become more responsive to the radical right given the changes to the salience of the issue.

Selected work on immigration:

  • No country for Asylum Seekers? How short-term exposure to refugees influences attitudes and voting behavior in Hungary (with Gergö Tóth and Johannes Wachs), [preprint], final paper in [Political Behavior]
  • Nothing attracts a crowd as quickly as a crisis? How the refugee crisis and radical right parties shape party competition on immigration in Europe, with Sophia Hunger, under review
  • Defending democracy or just the consensus? Established parties’ reaction to the AfD, part of PhD thesis

Politicization of democracy

I study the politicization of democracy in contemporary Europe. That means, I study why democracy sometimes becomes the object of political competition, rather than a system that enables competition on policy proposals and competence. I focus on how and when different parties speak about democracy but I am also interested in differences between citizens’ perspectives on democracy.

Most of my work on this topic was part of my PhD thesis but I have also started new comparative projects on the topic, including a survey experiment on the effect of public criticism on citizens’ opposition to democratic backsliding (with Lea Kaftan).

Selected work on the politicization of democracy:

  • From liberal to majoritarian democracy. Tolerance for illiberal democracy among dissatisfied and majoritarian democrats (with Lea Kaftan), work in progress
  • Name it and shame it? The effect of public criticism on citizens’ opposition to democratic backsliding (with Lea Kaftan), work in progress
  • Democracy Challenged: How Different Party Families Emphasize Different Democratic Principles (with Sarah Engler, Tarik Abou-Chadi and Lucas Leemann), under review
  • Taking issue with politics: Party conflict regarding the political system, part of PhD thesis
  • The Hour of the Citizen. The Evolution of Eastern Europeans' Conceptions of Democracy (with Endre Borbáth), part of PhD thesis
  • Defending democracy or just the consensus? Established parties’ reaction to the AfD, part of PhD thesis

Methods

During my PhD, I have worked on measurements of party positions. Being part of the POLCON Project on Political Conflict in the Shadow of the Great Recession that uses content analysis of newspapers - the data of which we have now made publicly available - I have written a book chapter with Swen Hutter on the cross-validation of this data with traditional manifesto-based measures. For measuring political protest and its consequences, we have developed contentious episode analysis with a larger team. The method provides a framework for the analysis of conflicts around policy proposals that includes a broad set of actors. A book on this is forthcoming.

My current work mostly draws on computational methods. In a paper with Sophia Hunger, we construct a time-sensitive measure of issue salience and party positions based on party press releases using a novel dictionary and wordscores. Applying a similar idea to positions on Europe, I participated in a hackathon where our approach of dictionary-based filtering and a paragraph2vec-based canonical correlation analysis performed best in measuring euroscepticism. Additionally, some of my current work that draws on measurements of party positions online uses ensemble machine learning models for classification. You can find more examples in the section on Politics and Digital Data. If you are interested in web data collection and text analysis, you may also want to have a look at my methods-related teaching.

Selected work that discusses measurement issues:

  • Nothing attracts a crowd as quickly as a crisis? How the refugee crisis and radical right parties shape party competition on immigration in Europe, with Sophia Hunger, under review
  • Findings from the hackathon on understanding euroscepticism through the lens of textual data, coauthored with all hackathon participants, [proceedings]
  • Social Media and Political Agenda Setting (with Fabrizio Gilardi, Maël Kubli and Stefan Müller), under review, [preprint]
  • Content Analysis in mixed methods approaches (with Laia Castro Herrero and Sílvia Majó Vázquez, forthcoming as chapter in 'Handbook Quantitative content analysis'
  • Design, Methods, and Cross-Validation of the Media Content Analysis (with Swen Hutter), working paper for an article and [chapter]
  • PolDem Observatory for Political Conflict and Democracy in Europe [datasets]

Politics in Eastern Europe

Some of my work on the Politicization of democracy and immigration explicitly focusses on Eastern Europe. For example, with Johannes Wachs and Gergö Tóth, I have analyzed the impact of the refugee crisis on voting behavior in Hungary. Currently, Lea Kaftan and I look at voters’ willingness to resist democratic backsliding in Poland. Addressing the impact of populism in Eastern Europe in a more encompassing way, I am working on a project with Endre Borbáth, where we study how the Hungarian Jobbik Party used a fragmented media environment with partisan online outlets to convey different messages to its own core supporters and the wider public.

You may also be interested in my paper with Endre Borbáth in which we analyze the different impact of political ideology on protest participation in Eastern, Western and Southern Europe (EJPR 2020) or my book chapter with Anna Kyriazi on the impact of the Great Recession on Hungarian party competition (2019).

Selected work on politics in Eastern Europe:

  • Different worlds of contention? Protest in Northwestern, Southern and Eastern Europe (with Endre Borbáth), European Journal of Political Research 2020 [paper]
  • No country for Asylum Seekers? How short-term exposure to refugees influences attitudes and voting behavior in Hungary (with Gergö Tóth and Johannes Wachs), [preprint], final paper accepted at [Political Behavior]
  • Programmatic Change in a Differentiated Media Landscape: the Case of Jobbik in Hungary (with Endre Borbáth), under review
  • A Hungarian Crisis or the Crisis in Hungary? The effect of the Great Recession on Hungarian party competition (with Anna Kyriazi), [chapter]