Research projects


Far-right parties

VOXgifWhat to do about a problem like the radical right? – in progress

Abstract: Reactions to the rise of far-right parties that advocate democratic backsliding and the dilution of socially liberal democratic norms present a a dilemma for existing political parties. How should  existing political parties respond to this challenge? A commonly adopted strategy is to apply a cordon sanitaire which excludes radical right-wing challengers from the government-forming process. Do voters support this policy? Leveraging data from Spain, I rely on individual citizens’ views on how parties should respond to rise of the new far-right party, VOX, to answer this questions. Empirically, I find very low-level support for the cordon sanitaire. Indeed, the median position of the electorate, regardless of their ideological position, is to treat the party just like any other. These results are also not conditioned by the propensity of individuals to identify VOX as indeed being a “radical right” party. The findings suggest that whilst radical right-wing parties may present an inimical threat to democratic norms, citizens do not necessarily view the means of squashing this threat to be one of strategic exclusion. 

Political identities

“I am Iron Man!”: Heroizing and Villainizing Partisan Identities via Outgroup Projection Bias.
(with Markus Wagner) –  under review

Abstract: Most research on political identities studies how individuals react to knowing others’ political allegiances. However, in most contexts political views and identities are hidden and only inferred, which implies that projected identities may matter as much as actual ones. In this paper, we argue that individuals engage in motivated political projection: the identities people project onto target individuals are strongly conditional on the valence of that target. We test this using a unique visual conjoint experiment in the UK and US that asks participants to assign partisanship and political ideology to fictional heroes and villains. We find strong support for political projection, especially among strong identifiers. We also find higher levels of political projection for Democratic (US) and Labour (UK) identifiers than among Republicans and Conservatives and show that differences in affective evaluations may account for this pattern.

Campaigns,  & voter mobilisation

Negative Political Identities and Costly Political Action.
(with Katharina Lawall, Joshua Townsley and Florian Foos) –  presented at APSA 2021 and EPSA 2022

Abstract: Elite and mass level politics in many Western democracies is increasingly characterised by the expression of negative feelings towards political out-groups. While the existence of these feelings is well-documented, there is little evidence on the consequences of activating these identities during election campaigns. Can political campaigns use negative political identity cues to raise donations? We test whether fundraising emails containing negative or positive political identity cues lead supporters of a party to donate money via a large pre-registered digital field experiment conducted in collaboration with a British political party. We find that emails containing negative as opposed to positive identity cues lead to a higher number and frequency of donations. We also find that negative identity cues were only effective when paired with an issue cue rather than a traditional party identity cue, resulting in a 15% increase in the probability of donating over the untreated control. Our results provide novel experimental evidence on behavioural effects of activating political identities in real-world political campaigns.