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.  

Partisanship, 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.


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

Abstract: Building upon insights in social psychology and developments in affective polarisation, we present a theoretical argument positing that how individuals with partisan identities project their own identities – as well as those of partisans to which they they are negatively predisposed onto individuals they view as virtuous or malevolent.  Leveraging an original conjoint experiment in the US and the UK we find strong empirical support for our theory. Subgroup analysis demonstrates, however, that the prevalence of outgroup projection onto perceived malevolent individuals is not symmetrical among partisans across the aisle. Consistent with evidence of higher levels of negative affect among the left towards the rights, we find that Democrats (US) and Labour voters (UK) are significantly more prone to villainise the out-groups than their corresponding rivals on the political right. 

LGBTQ+ politics

Sexuality 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.

Public 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 

Abstract: 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.