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 electoral, 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 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. 



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 [draft paper version]

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.

LGBTQ+ politics

outcomes_treatmentConservatives vs. Feminists: An Experiment on Ideological Cues and Support for Transgender Self-Identification – work in progress

Abstract: Following a global expansion LGBT+ rights in recent years, particularly the rapid policy diffusion of equal marriage in the Americas, Europe, and Oceania, LGBT+ rights activists have increasingly turned their attention to lobbying for reforms that cater to the specific needs of the transgender community. An increasingly salient policy innovation pursued by LGBT+ rights groups is the right of trans people to bring their legally recorded sex in line with their lived gender by way of self-identification, with existing medical, diagnostic and bureaucratic barriers mostly removed. A unique coalition of traditionalist conservatives and trans-exclusionary/gender critical feminists has emerged to challenge these reforms in territories where they have been proposed or enacted. These campaigners promote the view that the expansion of transgender rights is inimical to the sex-based rights of cisgender women and characterise self-ID policies as a threat to the safety of “natal” women in single-sex spaces. In this paper we address two questions. Firstly, we ask: who supports the right to self-identification for transgender individuals in a relatively LGBT+ friendly policy environment? Secondly, we ask: do trans-exclusionary feminists’ arguments over the safety of (cisgender) women influence mass public opinion? We answer these questions via an original survey experiment embedded within the 2021 Scottish Election Study. We find that feminist appeals related to women’s safety gain more traction than conservative ones, particularly among women respondents. Highlighting these concerns is an effective means of increasing already robust opposition to reforms designed to improve the welfare of transgender individuals, which should be of concern for proponents of self-ID policies.

Coefplot_comparisonSexuality and the City:  The Geography of LGBT Political Participation in the United States (with Jack Thompson) – presented at EPOP 2021

Abstract:  In this paper, we address this critical gap by examining how patterns of participation among LGBT Americans vary by geographic context. Using data from the 2020 Cooperative Election Study (CES) to explore how patterns of LGBT participation differ across the urban-rural interface, we find that individuals identifying as LGBT living in urban areas exhibit higher rates of participation than those living in rural areas, and that these results hold across multiple urban-rural classification schemes. Estimating a multilevel model that leverages local-level data on the density of the LGBT population, we also provide strong empirical validation of the theoretical effects of intragroup contact and mobilization on LGBT participation in large metro areas.  We find that LGBT individuals living in metro areas with a higher percentage of LGBT individuals exhibit higher rates of participation relative to metro areas with a lower percentage of LGBT individuals. The results indicate that urban contexts foster Queer participation by engendering intragroup contact and mobilization among LGBT populations.


predictedmeansPublic support for surrogacy. Experimental evidence of homonegative discrimination and parasocial contact – work in progress

Abstract:  The use of gestational surrogacy as means of family construction is on the rise. A number of legislatures from states across the globe are currently involved in debates, often informed by moralistic arguments, regarding the liberalisation of regulations that prohibit access to surrogacy. Little is known about the public’s attitudes towards surrogacy nor what factors influence this policy preference. In this paper, I present original experimental evidence from Britain in an attempt to remedy this deficit. Empirically, I estimate a 2×2 fully factorial, plus control, experiment to model the independent and combined effects of homonegativity and parasocial (celebrity) contact on support for commercial gestational surrogacy in Britain. Whilst, on average, British citizens citizens are largely supportive of the practice, experimental manipulations provide robust causal evidence to suggest that homonegative discriminatory preferences exhibit a sizeable and significant inimical effect on support for the policy. Parasocial contact exhibits both positive and negative effects depending on the sexuality of the parasocial exposure. In order to assess the validity of the causal mechanism via which treatment assignment shapes outcomes, I apply quantitative text analysis modelling to open-ended survey responses. Quantitative text analysis establishes that assignment to different treatment conditions actively influences survey respondents’ reasoning for their revealed preferences, providing additional purchase to causal interpretations of the experimental exposure. Moreover, the analysis of experimental subjects’ self-reported rationale for their policy preferences demonstrates that exposure to a (homo)sexuality prime engenders increased emphasis on the welfare of of surrogate children and the “unnatural” composition of same-sex households.

European Union politics

Barely a ripple in the sea: EU COVID relief funds failed to change citizens attitudes.  (with Dan Devine & Barbara Krumpholz) – pre-print 

shockAbstract: Political actors who boast access to the management and distribution of public funds often actively leverage their discretionary spending power to gain political support. Donald Trump, when faced with a simultaneous collapse in domestic approval and economic growth, signed a historic stimulus \$900 billion package that sent a personal cheque into the home of every American. Faced with criticism over its alleged inaction during the height of the pandemic, the European Union (EU) also approved a historic €750 billion stimulus bill in July 2020. Policy makers take these interventionist steps to distribute public funds not only in the hope that they alleviate economic distress but also to allow them to spend their way out of collapses of public trust. In this paper we ask: did news of the EU’s Covid-19 relief fund result in increased trust and support for the supranational community? We answer this question empirically via a quasi-experiment facilitated by the coincidental timing of cross-national Eurobarometer survey fieldwork with the EU’s unexpected announcement of final Covid-19 rescue deal. In contrast to our expectations, we find robust, precisely estimated and well-powered null effects that exposure to the EU’s last-minute and unprecedentedly large financial relief package exhibited no meaningful effect on individuals’ trust in the EU, satisfaction with democracy at the supranational level, nor on approval of the EU’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. Even electorates in the member states most negatively affected by Covid-19 do not update their trust and support for the polity in response to the announcement of the stimulus package, which disproportionately benefits their countries. Thus, our findings provide evidence against utilitarian-led approaches that assume an improvement of economic conditions can promote public support. The implications of our findings signal that when it comes to bolstering support for the EU, utilitarian-led responses focused on catalysing an immediate improvement in economic conditions are unlikely to provide the remedial benefits EU policymakers might hope for.

Campaigns & voter mobilisation

post.donor_effects_treatvstreatBrexit identities and campaign framing experiment.
(with Katharina Lawall, Joshua Townsley and Florian Foos) –  presented at APSA 2021

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.