EUI Comparative Politics Seminar Series

Past events

Speakers during Winter 2024

Thursday 18 January 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Noam Lupu (Vanderbilt)

Supportive Political Participation: The Effects of Serving as a Poll Worker


Participatory theories of democracy posit that participating in the political process transforms individuals into better democratic citizens. But empirical research on the individual-level effects of participation focuses overwhelmingly on voting, with mixed results and debate about the mechanisms. This study focuses on a different form of political participation and leverages a natural experiment in Peru to address the challenge posed by certain types of individuals self-selecting into political participation. Prior to every election, Peruvian officials randomly select citizens to serve as poll monitors on Election Day. Following the January 2020 congressional elections, I conducted a two-wave panel survey of these randomly selected poll monitors and also randomly selected alternates. I find that participation as a poll worker increases an individual’s senses of empowerment and efficacy, but does not provoke political interest or knowledge. I also find that participation boosts support for and trust in democratic institutions, especially elections, and that it fosters future civic participation. I find some evidence that these effects endure, at least for several months, although my follow-up estimates are less precise. Consistent with participatory theories of democracy, participation of this kind does shape citizens.

Thursday 25 January 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Raluca Pahontu (KCL)

Resemblance and Discrimination in Elections (with Stavros Poupakis, Brunel University London)


Discrimination affects hiring, mating and voting decisions. Whilst discrimination in elections mainly relates to gender or race, we introduce a novel source of discrimination: candidate resemblance. When candidates’ partisanship is not known, voters select those that resemble most elected co-partisans. Using a machine learning algorithm for face comparison among white male legislators, we find a stronger resemblance effect for Republicans compared to Democrats in the US. This happens because Republicans have a higher within-party facial resemblance than Democrats, even when accounting for gender and race. We find a similar pattern in the UK, where Conservative MPs are more similar looking to each other than Labour. Using a survey experiment, we find that Tory voters reward resemblance, while there is no similar effect for Labour. The results are consistent with an interpretation of this behaviour as a form of statistical discrimination.

Thursday 01 February 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Mathilde Emeriau (Sciences Po)

In or Out? Xenophobic Violence and Immigrant Integration. Evidence from 19th century France (with Stephane Wolton, LSE)


How do immigrants respond to xenophobic violence? We study how Italian immigrants responded to a wave of anti-Italian violence triggered by the assassination of the French president by an Italian anarchist in June 1894. Using French nominative census records from 1886, 1891 and 1896 and official naturalization decrees published between 1887 to 1898, we study the decision of Italian immigrants to either leave their host communities or apply for naturalization using a difference-in-differences design, comparing the change in exit and naturalization application rate of Italians before and after the assassination to that of other foreigners in the same period. We document how xenophobic violence triggered an increase in both exits and naturalization applications, with greater violence or threat thereof associated with more exits and naturalization applications. We also find that well-integrated Italians, as proxied by family status, are more likely to naturalize and less integrated ones are more likely to exit. We present a stylized model of immigrants’ choices to make sense of these findings

Thursday 08 February 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Max Schaub (University of Hamburg)

Cultural Roots of Negative Outgroup Attitudes: Theory and Evidence from the Re-activation of Antisemitic Stereotypes in Germany (with Eylem Kanol, WZB)


Outgroup prejudice is frequently attributed to contemporaneous factors, such as economic competition and perceptions of threat. We investigate the underlying source of stereotypes. We propose that many negative outgroup attitudes are ultimately rooted in what we refer to as cultural scripts—interconnected networks of meanings that link particular group identities to negatively-connoted phenomena. Using original survey data during the Covid-19 pandemic in Germany (n=17,800), we document a rise in antisemitic attitudes among individuals directly exposed to the pandemic, but solely among Christian believers. We suggest that this is because Christians rely on a cultural script linking Judaism with the spread of diseases. Evidence for the existence of this script is obtained from an automated text analysis of an original corpus of antisemitic texts (n=172). By means of a concept association task and a survey experiment (n=2,000), we demonstrate the differential effect of the script in the minds of Christians and non-Christians. We rule out several alternative explanations, particularly right-wing ideology. Our work demonstrates the deep cultural roots of exclusionary political attitudes and the mechanisms behind their activation.

Thursday 15 February 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Emmy Lindstam (IE Madrid)

“Evaluating the Effects of Inclusive Historical Narratives on Democratic Attitudes: Evidence from India and the United States” (with Nicholas Haas, Aarhus University)


Concerns about the state of democracy have surged in several countries amongst new evidence that many citizens do not value democratic principles or accept election results. Many suggest that at the core of these anti-democratic beliefs is a dismissal of some voters – ethnic minorities – as lesser members of the nation. In this project, we study whether historical narratives that highlight ethnic minorities’ positive contributions to the nation increase perceptions that they are entitled to speak on the nation’s behalf, and thereby enhance majority members support for the democratic process. We theorise that inclusive historical narratives can counteract the notion that minorities are lesser members of the nation and thus, the anti-democratic belief that their votes count less or not at all. To test our theory, we conduct online experiments in the world’s two largest democracies: India and the United States. In our experiments, we randomly assign participants either politically neutral or inclusive educational content sourced from real history textbooks. We then use both behavioural and stated preference measures to evaluate whether different historical narratives affect perceptions of minorities’ place in the nation and support for anti-democratic attitudes, norms, and policies. Our findings indicate that battles over history education may carry consequences for majority members’ support for democratic principles and ethnic minorities’ political voice.

Thursday 22 February 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Kevin Arceneaux (Sciences Po)

Is Political Ignorance bliss? The Social and Political Effects of Facebook (with Martial Foucault, CEVIPOF; Kalli Giannelos, CEVIPOF & Paris-Dauphine; Jonathan Ladd, Georgetown U; Can Zengin, CEVIPOF & Temple U)


Nearly three billion people actively use Facebook, making it the largest social media platform in the world. Previous research shows that the social media platform reduces users’ happiness, while increasing political knowledge. It also may increase partisan polarization. Working to build a scientific consensus, we test whether the potential negative effects of Facebook use can be overcome with the help of minimalist informational interventions that a parallel line of research has shown to be effective at inducing people to be more accurate and civil. We conducted a preregistered well-powered Facebook deactivation experiment during the 2022 French presidential election. In line with previous research, we find that Facebook reduces happiness, informs, and increases partisan polarization but only among college educated individuals. In contrast, we find little evidence that minimalist informational interventions in a field setting helped individuals who deactivated Facebook to seek out news, be more accurate or less polarized.

Thursday 29 February 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Michael Becher (IE Madrid)

Trade Origins of Proportional Representation (with Irene Menéndez Gonzalez, IE University)


While recent research on the origins of Proportional Representation (PR) in Europe has focused on domestic political explanations, we bring international trade back to the analysis of electoral system choice. First, we sharpen earlier arguments and specify the partisan trade theory of endogenous electoral institutions, which highlights how the misrepresentation of trade interests in parliament shapes support for PR. Second, we test the theory using district-level referendum data and a natural experiment during the first globalization in Switzerland. We find a robust positive relationship between the vote for free trade and the subsequent vote for PR. Moreover, within-district change in the protectionist factor was tightly linked to changes in the PR vote. Leveraging plausibly exogenous variation in the introduction of PR across cantons, we also find that PR reduced the underrepresentation of free trade interests. Altogether, our analysis highlights the overlooked importance of international trade for conflict over electoral institutions.

Thursday 07 March 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Jon Fiva (Norwegian Business School)

Gender Gaps and Hidden Majoritarianism in Proportional Representation Systems


The share of women in politics is higher, on average, under closed-list proportional representation (PR) electoral systems compared to majoritarian systems. Yet even in PR systems, progress toward gender parity has been slow and uneven across political hierarchies. We consider the role of a common institutional feature of party organization–seniority-based promotion–and argue that gender gaps in career progression can emerge either due to direct bias in the seniority system, or because majoritarian offices (such as local mayor and list leader) serve as important steppingstones that create bottlenecks in women’s career paths. Using more than a century of detailed candidate-level data from Norway, we find that advancement is generally gender-neutral across stages of a typical political career, but that gender gaps emerge at majoritarian bottlenecks. However, we also document how parties can employ workarounds to mitigate the adverse effects of these bottlenecks on women’s progression into higher offices.

Thursday 14 March 2024 | Seminar Room 2

Isabela Mares (Yale)

Defending Parliament: Responses of mainstream parties to parliamentary erosion


How does the presence of extremist parties in parliaments modify parliamentary norms? In this talk, I draw on two recent papers to examine the responses of mainstream politicians to the disruptive strategies of extremist legislators. A first study examines the dynamics of parliamentary erosion during the Weimar parliament. Using a novel dataset of all calls-to-order, I document the existence of a cycle of provocation-counter provocation that led to the erosion of parliamentary norms in the last years of the Weimar Republic. A second paper (co-authored with Qixuan Yang) studies informal interactions in the contemporary German Bundestag during the period between 2017 and 2021. Using a novel dataset of over 25,000 parliamentary speeches, we document a significant erosion of parliamentary norms, as measured by an increase in the number of verbal and nonverbal interruptions. Both legislators from mainstream and extremist parties contribute to this erosion of parliamentary norms.

Speakers during Fall 2023

Thursday 05 October 2023 | Seminar Room 2

Dominik Hangartner (ETH)

Which counterspeech strategy mitigates intergroup hostility and its amplification on social media? Evidence from a field experiment on the role of empathy (with Gloria Gennaro, UCL; Laurenz Derksen, ETH; Aya Abdelrahman, ETH; Emma Broggini, ETH; Mariya Alexandra Green, ETH; Victoria Andrea Haerter, ETH; Elia Heer, ETH; Isabel Heidler, ETH; Fiona Kauer, ETH; Han-Nuri Kim, ETH; Benjamin Landry, ETH; Alessio Levis, ETH; Jiazhen Li, UZH; Şevval Şimşir, ETH; Iva Srbinovska, ETH; Robin Anna Vital, ETH; Karsten Donnay, UZH; and Fabrizio Gilardi, UZH)


Online intergroup hostility is a pervasive and troubling issue, yet experimental evidence on how to curb it remains scarce. This study focuses on counterspeech as a means for users to reduce hate speech. Informed by theories from social psychology about the role of empathy in overcoming prejudice, we randomize four counterspeec strategies across the senders of 2,102 xenophobic Twitter messages. Compared to the control group, the three empathy-based strategies increase the sender’s propensity to delete the xenophobic message, reduce the share of new xenophobic messages over the following four weeks, and decrease other users’ amplification of the xenophobic message. Among these strategies, analogical perspective-taking, encouraging the sender to compare their own experiences of being attacked online with their discriminatory behavior towards the outgroup, is particularly effective. In contrast, disapproval messages have weaker effects. These findings provide theoretical and actionable insights for how to reduce intergroup hostility and its online amplification.

Thursday 12 October 2023 | Seminar Room 2

Mark Kayser (Hertie)

Downward Class Mobility and Far-Right Party Support (with Alan M. Jacobs, UBC)


The relative effects of economic and social change on support for far-right parties persistently occupies the attention of scholars and the public. We argue that many explanations, by examining short-run economic change or levels of social and cultural characteristics, miss a core determinant of the rise of the far right: long-run material deterioration, with its concomitant implications for social status. Employing intergenerational occupational mobility, a measure uniquely able to capture both components, we provide the first broad evidence of this pattern across 10 countries and 2 decades. We then distinguish (a) between level and change effects with the aid of diagonal reference models and (b) between income and status effects through the use of historical occupational wage data. Downward (but not upward) occupational mobility predicts far-right voting across ten developed democracies and intergenerational differences in real income play a role independent of occupational status.

Thursday 19 October 2023 | Seminar Room 2

Carl Dahlström (University of Gothenburg)

Executive Appointments under Legislative Oversight (with Mikael Holmgren, Örebro University)


A large literature argues that the executive’s appointment powers may bestow them with a significant policy advantage against the legislature. In practice, however, the legislature may also deploy a variety of instruments to strike back at the executive. In this paper, we field five decades’ worth of data from the Swedish government to investigate whether the executive might adapt their appointment strategies to legislative pressures. We take advantage of a vast system of ad-hoc commissions that the Swedish ministers have developed over time to track their sensitivity to the parliament’s partisan composition. We find that, while the ministers generally oversample appointees from their own parties, the overall distribution of political appointees also tends to shift along with the parliament’s balance of power. In line with recent theories of interbranch relations, our results highlight both the executive’s penchant for strategic appointments and the legislature’s constraining reach.

Thursday 26 October 2023 | Seminar Room 2

Thomas Kurer (University of Zurich)

Chasing Opportunities in the Knowledge Economy: Moving Places, Moving Politics? (with Valentina Consiglio, University of Konstanz)


The rise of the knowledge economy has profoundly transformed the political landscape. Thriving urban knowledge hubs have become almost synonymous with cosmopolitan environments whereas lagging-behind areas are characterized by stronger anti-establishment sentiments. We advance the literature with a more dynamic perspective by studying individual relocations to examine the political consequences of the strong pull into destinations that are typically more progressive than most places of origin. We propose an innovative measure of local opportunity at the NUTS-3 level in Germany and merge this “opportunity map” with individual-level panel data to assess how relocations into knowledge hubs affect political behavior. In line with a mechanism of assimilation, we find strong and consistent evidence that moving to opportunity fosters political integration and shifts political preferences to the left. Our findings suggest that the ongoing movement of populations from rural regions to prosperous cities may come with a self-reinforcing political dynamic that creates a strong and lasting progressive coalition in the mid- and long-term.

Thursday 02 November 2023 | Seminar Room 2

Gloria Gennaro (UCL)

The C-SPAN Effect: Televised Debates, Emotional Appeals, and Political Accountability


We study the effect of televised broadcasts of floor debates on the rhetoric and behavior of U.S. Congress Members. First, we show in a differences-in-differences analysis that the introduction of C-SPAN broadcasts in 1979 increased the use of emotional appeals in the House relative to the Senate, where televised floor debates were not introduced until later. Second, we use exogenous variation in C-SPAN channel positioning as an instrument for C-SPAN viewership by Congressional district and show that House Members from districts with exogenously higher C-SPAN viewership are more emotive in floor debates. Looking to electoral pressures as a mechanism, we find the emotionality effect of C-SPAN is strongest in competitive districts. C-SPAN exposure increases the vote share for incumbent Congress Members and citizens’ approval of their job in Congress, and more so among Members who speak more emotionally. Contra accountability models of transparency, C-SPAN has no effect on measures of legislative effort on behalf of constituents, and if anything it reduces a politician’s constituency orientation. We find that local news coverage – that is, mediated rather than direct transparency – has the opposite effect of C-SPAN, increasing legislative effort but with no effect on emotional rhetoric. These results highlight the importance of audience and mediation in the political impacts of higher transparency.

Thursday 09 November 2023 | Seminar Room 2

Natalia Garbiras-Diaz (Harvard Business School)

The Limits of Decentralized Administrative Data Collection: Evidence from Colombia (with Tara Slough, New York University)


States collect vast amounts of data for use in policymaking and public administration. To do so, central governments frequently solicit data from decentralized bureaucrats. Because central governments use these data in policymaking, decentralized bureaucrats may face incentives to selectively report or misreport, limiting the quality of administrative data. We study the production of a transparency index by measuring the reporting behavior of bureaucrats in the near universe of Colombian public sector entities. Using an original audit, we show that failure to report and misreporting vary systematically in actual transparency practices, revealing limits to the use of these data. Further, in partnership with a Colombian government watchdog agency, we implement a large-scale experiment that varies the salience of central government oversight. Increased salience changed the data bureaucrats reported to the central government. Similar dynamics across policy areas and regime types are apt to limit the quality of state information in multiple contexts.

Thursday 23 November 2023 | Seminar Room 2

Daniel Berliner (LSE)

Information Processing in Participatory Governance


Participatory governance institutions often aim to yield information useful to policymakers, whether about public preferences, problems, solutions, or perspectives. But how can large numbers of public contributions be processed into interpretable and actionable information outputs? As theorists and practitioners increasingly call for participatory governance to operate at larger scales, often enabled by new technologies, this challenge only becomes more important. Building on research across political theory, public administration, and political science, this paper develops and illustrates three claims: First, that information processing plays an important and under-appreciated role in participatory governance. Second, that there are distinct types of information processing, best characterised by two dimensions of specificity and novelty. And third, that these types differ in their costs, in the extent to which they can be delegated to non-experts or to automation, and in their potential consequences for unrepresentative participation. Better recognising these differences will help both researchers and practitioners better understand the potential and the limitations of participatory governance institutions in different settings and with different goals.

Thursday 30 November 2023 | Seminar Room 2

Macartan Humphreys (WZB)

Effects of economic and social incentives on bureaucratic quality: Experimental Evidence from Sierra Leone (with Maarten Voors, Wageningen University; Salif Jaiteh, IDinsight; Niccolo Meriggi, IGC ; Carlo Prato, Columbia University; Peter van der Windt, New York University - Abu Dhabi)


Using a field experiment implemented in Sierra Leone we examine mixed motives for local service providers. We find evidence consistent with past literature that social pressure improves quality–albeit at a lower levels than past studies have found. These gains however are no better than gains from simple direct payment mechanisms that involve similar direct costs but lower social costs. There is weak evidence of crowding out effects. Analysis of a structural model identifies conditions underwhich social or economic incentives are more or less likely to be effective.

Thursday 07 December 2023 | Seminar Room 2

Beatriz Magaloni (Stanford)

State-evading Solutions to Violence: Organized Crime and Governance in Indigenous Mexico (with Kristof Gosztonyi, Universität Osnabrück; and Sarah Thompson, Stanford University)


The monopoly of violence in the hands of the state is associated with the creation of political order. This influential vision about the emergence of order misses the important problem that parts of the state and its law enforcement apparatus often become extensions of criminality rather than solutions to it. We argue that one solution to this dilemma is to “opt out from the state.” Using a multi-method strategy combining qualitative research, quasi-experimental statistical analysis, and survey data, the paper demonstrates that indigenous communities in Mexico are better able to escape predatory criminal rule and to live more secure where they are legally allowed to carve a space of autonomy from the state through the institution of “usos y costumbres.” We trace this outcome to the presence of strong direct participatory democratic practices, the presence of a community police run by local townsmen, and a parallel system of justice independent from the state, making communities more immune to cartel infiltration.