My research focuses broadly on democratic representation and the relationship between citizens and elites in advanced industrial democracies. In particular, my interests encompass political parties and party systems, public opinion, regional politics, and the European Union. My research has primarily concentrated on the politics of Europe, but the applicability of my work extends to democracies with a history of programmatic politics.
My main research interest is the increased multidimensionality of electoral politics. Multiple ideological divides—typically (though not exclusive to) the economic left-right, and a progressive-conservative opposition on socio-cultural issues—now best describe and structure the numerous policy issues that inform party and voter behavior. The concept of multidimensionality fundamentally challenges our understanding of democratic congruence and responsiveness, and requires us to reconsider our established notions of party strategy, voter attitudes, salience, and political accountability. Several projects attempt to understand and evaluate these developments.
“A change of heart? Analyzing stability and change in European party positions“
- How do parties balance strategic responsiveness and ideological continuity? This study combines insights from spatial models of elections and cleavage theory to explain stability and change in European party positions. I argue that a party’s reputation and durable party-voter linkages constrain positional change on its more salient, primary dimension. Yet, by remaining ideologically true to its supporters’ key concerns, a party can strategically shift on secondary issues outside of its core agenda. (West European Politics)
“Avoidance, ambiguity, alternation: Position blurring strategies in multidimensional party competition”
- This study contributes to a growing literature on position blurring by demonstrating how party leaders purposively create uncertainty about where their party stands on the issue of European integration. Analysis of survey and manifesto data across fourteen Western European countries (1999-2019) confirms that three distinct strategies—avoidance, ambiguity, and alternation—all increase expert uncertainty about a party’s position. (European Union Politics)
“United in diversity: Explaining left-right variation among regionalist parties”
- This paper studies parties’ behavior on their less salient, secondary dimension in more detail by analyzing European regionalist parties. Despite their recent successes, our understanding of these actors is limited. Existing theories do not explain how a regionalist party develops an economic platform that falls outside of its autonomist agenda. I adopt a dimensional approach to investigate their strategic behavior on a secondary dimension and formulate two hypotheses: (1) a regionalist party will converge on the position of the mean regional voter, contradicting spatial theory’s median voter theorem, and (2) it will increase the salience of economic issues in its policy platform. I use both public opinion and expert-level data on voter and party positions to test these theoretical predictions.
“What’s in a dimension (or two)? The Western European political space from a comparative perspective”
(with Garret Binding and Marco Steenbergen)
- Although the same general ideological dimensions structure political conflict across Western Europe, which concrete policy issues are politicized relative to these dimensions—and to what degree—differs. We examine the associations between parties’ issue preferences and the underlying latent dimensions of party contestation to assess how (dis)similar the meanings of political spaces are across Western European democracies. We do so by drawing on the expert-level responses of the 2019 Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES) and a novel hierarchical Bayesian item response model that introduces variation across space in item parameters.
“The salience of salience: Cross-validating measures of issue and dimensional salience”
(with Ryan Bakker and Dave Armstrong)
- The salience of different issues or dimensions is a necessary component of party competition, given the growing understanding that most party competition spaces are multidimensional. In this paper, we discuss the importance of understanding issue/dimensional salience. We use the two most prominent sources of salience, party manifestos and expert surveys, to demonstrate that there are important differences in how they measure issue and dimensional salience.
“Niche parties and multidimensionality: Definitional disagreement and its implications for niche party behavior”
(with Ida Hjermitslev)
- This paper explores the variation in the main definitions for identifying niche parties, or ‘nicheness’, and analyzes its implications for their appeal and strategic behavior in a multidimensional environment. Using manifesto, expert, and survey data, covering more than twenty countries in the period 2002-2019, we show that our understanding of niche party behavior varies by dimension and is sensitively dependent on the employed niche-party definition.
- This paper explores when and how party organization matters for party strategy. It argues and empirically establishes that a key prediction–that leadership-dominated and activist-dominated parties are responsive to the positional shifts of the mean voter and the party voter, respectively–is conditional: (1) leadership-dominated parties’ responsiveness to the mean voter decreases as their electoral fortunes improve, (2) increases as a party system becomes more polarized, while (3) activist-dominated parties more reliably follow the positional shifts of the party voter. (Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, 2019)
“Parties’ voter targeting strategies. What can Facebook ads tell us?”
(with Simon Stückelberger)
- Digital political advertising on social media is an integral part of modern election campaigns. But which voters do parties target? Studying Facebook advertisements, we show that ‘coalition maintenance’ is the dominant party strategy across demographic and regional groups, and that parties in majoritarian electoral systems pursue a narrower regional targeting strategy than their counterparts in proportional systems.
“Technocracy and ideology”
(with Eri Bertsou and Daniele Caramani)
- Ongoing research project on the ideological preferences of citizens with technocratic and/or populist attitudes.