Research projects


Far-right parties

interaction_combinedWhen the US far-right sneezes, the European far-right catches a cold. Quasi-experimental evidence of electoral contagion from Spain. (José Rama) – under review

Abstract: Does the electoral defeat of a far-right party abroad influence support for similar parties at home? By exploiting the quasi-experimental setting provided by the coincidental timing of Donald Trump’s 2020 electoral defeat with the Spanish Sociological Study’s monthly barometer data collection, we provide robust causal evidence to show that Trump’s electoral loss in the US had a negative contagious spillover effect on support for the Spanish far-right. Empirically we estimate treatment effects based on the \textit{as good as random} exposure to the electoral results, as well as regression discontinuity models to isolate the causal impact of Trump’s defeat on support for Spain’s new far-right party, VOX. Our results – which are robust to various modelling approaches including covariate adjustment, regional fixed effects, placebo issues and nearest-neighbour matching – demonstrate that Trump’s defeat to Joe Biden had a sizeable negative effect on support for VOX. The contagion effect is substantive: equal to 3-5 percentage-points among the general population and 8-11 percentage-points among right-wing voters. Our findings make an important contribution to the broader literature on electoral behaviour as they indicate that the electoral success of ideologically symmetrical parties abroad plays a role in understanding a party’s domestic success.



Todo por la patria. Individual, local and spatial contagion effects of military association and radical right-wing support. (with Francisco Villamil & José Rama) – work in progress

Abstract: Little is known about how the association with the armed forces influences voting for the radical right. In this paper, we advance the theory that individual and local-level associations with the military drives support for far-right parties by consolidating national and authoritarian values amongst those exposed to military activity. Empirically, we leverage three distinct analyses to test this thesis. First, relying on cumulative national barometer data, we demonstrate that individual military personnel are significantly more prone to support Spain’s new far-right party, VOX. Second, creating an original dataset that combines the spatial location of military barracks and polling station-level electoral outcomes, we show that the localised electoral victories of the radical right are in part driven by the presence of higher concentration of military personnel. Thirdly, leveraging spatial regression models, we provide evidence of localised contagion effects. Our results provide substantive evidence of the role of military associations in explaining the localised electoral victory of the radical right. Not only do electoral districts that host military barracks provide significant electoral returns for the radical right, but the presence of these military bases engenders a significant diffusion effect that results in a contagious increase in the radical right’s electoral gains in neighbouring districts.

Sexuality and political behaviour

siegelplotWhere is the party? Explaining Political Party Shifts in Positions on LGBT Rights. (with Scott Siegel) – APSA 2020 paper

Abstract: Legislative action has been the primary vehicle for change in LGBT+ rights in Europe the political saliency of these concerns has remained much lower in comparison to the US. LGBT+ rights are of interest to only a small minority of voters yet the partisan endorsement of these policies by mainstream, large catch-all parties has been necessary for pro-LGBT rights legislation, such as same-sex marriage to be passed. There is not a perfect linear relationship between changes in public opinion and the approval of pro-LGBT+ legislation. This paper asks: what explains support for LGBT+ policies positions among mainstream parties and why they may change over time.

EU intervention

GSEMplotEU intervention, economic perceptions & satisfaction with democracy. (with Dan Devine) – under review

Abstract: The dramatic decline in political support in the aftermath of the Eurozone crisis has sparked a debate regarding the role of the European Union’s intervention into a small collection of its member states and the negative consequences this intervention signals for representative democracy. Primarily, there are two arguments made to explain the decline of political trust within the intervened-in states. One argument is that EU intervention undermines representative democracy as it ties the hands of political parties, castrating the room for manoeuvre of governments which reduces the ability of voters to choose between demarcated political alternatives. This reduced room for manoeuvre or “democracy without choice” engenders dissatisfaction with the democratic system as voters become aware of their inability to shape the policies of those who seek to govern them. A different argument suggests that EU intervention serves as an information cue  that signals to citizens that their government is unable to provide competent economic governance. As a result, a decline in political support in the intervened-in economies is brought about by citizens’ updating their subjective evaluations of economic performance. In this paper we ask what effect do economic interventions have on satisfaction with democracy, economic perceptions, and the mechanisms that are at play between these three variables.

Campaigns & voter mobilisation

results_mean1Mobilising voters to lobby their MPs on Brexit. Field experiment evidence from the UK. (with Joshua TownsleyFlorian Foos and Denise Baron) – under review

Abstract: Mass emails are a common tactic by which advocacy groups try to mobilise like-minded others to lobby political representatives. This paper assesses whether a large-scale campaign conducted by the UK’s main anti- Brexit advocacy group effectively induced constituent-to-legislator lobbying. The organisation conducted a large-scale field experiment in which 119,332 supporters were randomly assigned to receive one of four email messages, or to a control group. The emails urged supporters to lobby their local MP to support a second Brexit referendum, randomly varying whether or not they informed recipients of: i) their MP’s opposition to a second referendum, and ii) the urgency of the issue. We find that this email campaign generated around 3,247 individual emails to 346 non-aligned MPs, corresponding to an increase in emails of 3.4 percentage-points over the control group. We find no differential effect of revealing an MP’s incongruent Brexit position or of emphasising urgency. These results suggest that in high-stakes contexts, mass emails can be highly effective at mobilising supporters of a cause.
[pre-reg] [paper] 

post.donor_effects_treatvstreatBrexit identities and campaign framing experiment.
(with Katharina Lawall, Joshua Townsley and Florian Foos)

Abstract: Over recent years, there has been an increase in negative partisanship across Western democracies, as well as an emergence of new political identities structured around the liberal-authoritarian dimension. Emerging issue-based identities compete with traditional party identities and politics is increasingly characterised by strong feelings towards outgroups. In times of such political turmoil, how can political parties use salient political identities to mobilise supporters? We conducted a large-scale pre-registered randomized field experiment in collaboration with a major political party in the UK. We test whether supporters of the party were more likely to donate and volunteer if they were exposed to negative rather than positive political identity cues, and whether the effect of these cues varied depending on whether they primed traditional party identities or salient issue identities. Party supporters either received an email invoking a positive party identity (helping the in-party win), an email invoking negative party identity (stopping the out-party from winning), an email invoking positive Brexit identities (supporting Remain), and an email invoking negative Brexit identities (stopping Brexit). We expect that negative political identities are more powerful in encouraging costly political behaviour than positive ones, and that negative cues should be more effective when paired with traditional party identities.