Russia’s 2018 Presidential Elections

On 18 March 2018, Russians are electing their President for the next six years. Incumbent President Vladimir Putin is enjoying high approval rates and will most likely be re-elected. Yet, many Russians may opt not to take part in the vote. A new infographic by our guest contributor Antje KÀstner visualizes the path to the Russian presidency, compares recent opinion polls and puts the upcoming elections into historical perspective.


Presidential Elections in Kyrgyzstan – A Democratic Exception in Autocratic Central Asia?

Recent presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan were widely praised as a democratic milestone in the history of the country and the entire region. However, a closer look at assessments by international election observation missions and at events prior to the election discloses numerous shortcomings and irregularities. Patronage networks, financial and administrative resources played a crucial role for electoral success, making the Kyrgyz presidential elections an example of free and competitive, but not fair elections. Instead of further democratization, elections bore testimony to consolidating hybrid regime structures argues Ann-Sophie Gast in this guest contribution to the WZB Democracy Blog.

Statue in the remote Talas region – by Ann-Sophie Gast


The religious foundations of the European Financial Crisis

The European financial crisis has divided European nations. The division runs between north and south and some have even described the division as one between saints and sinners. In this contribution Josef Hien sheds light on the cultural underpinnings of this division and argues that religious foundations are at the heart of this divide. He concludes that a “interdenominational” compromise is necessary in order to overcome the polarized status quo. Weiterlesen

Bewegung? Partei? In den Landtagen agiert die AfD uneinheitlich

Die erste systematische Analyse der AfD­-PrĂ€senz in deutschen Landesparlamenten zeigt die junge Partei in strategischer Hinsicht als heterogen. Es sind unterschiedliche Richtungen zu erkennen: eher parla­mentarisch ausgerichtete Arbeit einer konstruktiven Opposition und eher bewegungsorientierte Arbeit. In die­sem Sinne bipolar sind auch einzelne Fraktionen, in denen es Vertreter bei­ der Strategien gibt. Gemeinsam ist den AfD-Fraktionen in den Landtagen die Tendenz, stark auf die Arbeit im Plenum und deren mediale Nutzung zu setzen und weniger in die konkre­te Arbeit in den AusschĂŒssen zu in­ vestieren.


The British Election: Democracy Works!

Professor Stein Ringen on the UK snap elections and why the result is a victory for democracy.

This post was first published on ThatsDemocracy the blog of Professor Stein Ringen on June  2017. We are thankful for the permission to repost his analyses of the UK general elections.


598 – Die RegelgrĂ¶ĂŸe des Bundestages wird durch das neue Wahlrecht zur Makulatur

2017 droht ein Parlament mit 700 oder mehr Abgeordneten. Noch wĂ€re Zeit fĂŒr eine nachhaltig wirksame Reform. Argumentieren Robert Vehrkamp von der Bertelsmann Stiftung, momentan Gast in der Abteilung Demokratie und Demokratisierung am WZB und Florian Grotz von der HSU.

Eventuell bald zu klein? Der Plenarsaal des Bundestages im ReichstagsgebÀude

Das seit 2013 geltende Wahlrecht zum Deutschen Bundestag ist ein „ParlamentsvergrĂ¶ĂŸerungsgesetz“. ErhĂ€lt eine Partei mehr Mandate als ihr nach bundesweitem Zweitstimmenproporz zustehen, werden diese durch weitere Mandate fĂŒr alle anderen Bundestagsparteien ausgeglichen. Damit ist zwar der innerparlamentarische Mandatsproporz wiederhergestellt. Der Preis dafĂŒr ist jedoch ein teils drastischer Mandatsaufwuchs. Aus der gesetzlich vorgesehenen RegelgrĂ¶ĂŸe des Bundestages von 598 Abgeordneten kann, je nach Wahlergebnis, schnell ein Parlament mit 700 oder mehr Abgeordneten werden. Die aktuellen Verschiebungen im Parteiensystem machen extreme VergrĂ¶ĂŸerungen sogar immer wahrscheinlicher. Das zeigen aktuelle Simulationen auf der Grundlage von Umfrageergebnissen. Damit wĂ€re das Parlament nicht mehr optimal arbeitsfĂ€hig, wĂŒrde unnötig hohe Kosten verursachen und letztlich die eigene LegitimitĂ€t beschĂ€digen.

Ein ĂŒber die Maßen aufgeblĂ€hter Bundestag wĂ€re darĂŒber hinaus ein Elfmeter fĂŒr alle Populisten. Der BundestagsprĂ€sident hat daher die Parteien immer wieder aufgefordert, das Wahlrecht erneut zu reformieren – bislang jedoch vergeblich. Was wĂ€re konkret zu tun? FĂŒr die anstehende Wahl könnte durch eine „Deckelung“ der ParlamentsgrĂ¶ĂŸe und eine begrenzte interne Verrechnung von Überhangmandaten zumindest die Wahrscheinlichkeit eines „aus dem Leim gehenden“ Bundestages deutlich reduziert werden. Mittelfristig könnten Überhangmandate durch eine Wahlkreisreform gĂ€nzlich vermieden werden – und damit die RegelgrĂ¶ĂŸe „598“ wieder eingehalten werden. Der notwendige Grundsatzbeschluss dazu sollte nicht auf Sankt Nimmerlein verschoben, sondern noch vor der im Herbst 2017 anstehenden Wahl gefasst werden, mit Wirksamkeit fĂŒr den ĂŒbernĂ€chsten Bundestag. Noch wĂ€re dafĂŒr Zeit.

Mehr dazu wie eine Wahlrechtsreform aussehen könnte in dem aktuellem “Einwurf” der Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Robert Vehrkamp ist Direktor des Programms “Zukunft der Demokratie” der Bertelsmann Stiftung in GĂŒtersloh. Seine Forschungsschwerpunkte sind Partizipation, Wahlbeteiligung und NichtwĂ€hler. Am WZB arbeitet als Gast der Abteilung Demokratie und Demokratisierung an einer Studie zur Steigerung der Wahlbeteiligung in Deutschland und entwickelt gemeinsam mit Abteilungsmitarbeitern den Demokratiemonitor.

The Suspension of the Recall Referendum in Venezuela

This post is a guest contribution by Laura Gamboa from Utah State University and Raul A. Sanchez Urribarri from La Trobe University, Melbourne.

For a couple of years now, Venezuela has been going through a severe crisis: it has the world’s highest inflation, increasing scarcity, rising crime and deepening authoritarianism. In order to address the crisis, the coalition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) –which groups the country’s most important opposition parties and won the 2015 Legislative elections—has been pushing, since June, for a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro. After allowing different stages of the referendum to move forward, on October 21st, the Venezuelan Electoral Council (CNE) suspended the process. This controversial decision followed a series of lower courts’ rulings in the states of Carabobo, Apure, Aragua and Bolívar, in response to lawsuits introduced by ruling-party (PSUV) governors accusing the opposition of committing fraud in earlier steps of the process, that had already been verified and accepted by the CNE. Moreover, after this decision, several opposition leaders were barred from leaving the country by another judicial order. These moves garnered condemnations from the opposition and the international community, fuelling fears that Venezuela is on the path of becoming a full-fledged dictatorship.

How Did Venezuela Get to the Recall Referendum in the First Place?  

For several years now, Venezuela has been a competitive authoritarian regime. The government has a nominal commitment to liberal-democratic institutions, including elections, freedom of expression and association, independent courts, and so forth. However, as several observers and scholars of Venezuelan politics have shown, the regime systematically manipulates and restricts dissent.[1] This trend has become even worse under President Maduro, the less charismatic successor to President Hugo Chavez (who replaced him in 2013 after his death). Under Maduro’s rule, the regime has become even more autocratic. It has imprisoned political opponents with the collaboration of a politicized judiciary, circumvent the authority of democratically elected officers and, more worryingly, increased the presence of the military in the government[2] causing great concern at home and abroad.

In the midst of the worst economic and security crisis that the country has seen in decades the opposition has taken important steps towards regime change. Because it is a competitive, rather than a fully authoritarian regime, in Venezuela, defeating the government via elections albeit hard, is still an alternative. Building on a string of successful inclusive alliances, and having been accustomed to solving their differences through functional internal mechanisms, the once heavily-fragmented MUD now poses a serious threat to Chavismo’s electoral dominance. In December 2015, they won two thirds of the National Assembly; they control some of the most important municipal and state governments in the country, and there is a strong likelihood that they could win even more posts in the next ‘regional’ elections, given Maduro’s lack of popularity and the PSUV’s low numbers in recent polls.

MUD’s most serious threat, however, has been the recall referendum –a constitutional provision that allows 20% of the electorate to request the removal of an unpopular President. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the government’s response to this threat had been to delay the referendum. In the past months, the CNE engaged in a series of dawdling tactics that slowed down the process, taking considerable time to organize a preliminary signature-collection needed to activate the referendum and to make key decisions regarding its schedule. This is unsurprising, since the CNE’s neutrality has long been perceived as compromised by the opposition and international observers (all members but one are perceived as pro-government), and so has been the Supreme Court’s (notorious for its activist protection of the government’s interests.[3])

These tactics make sense as a power-preservation strategy: According to article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, if the referendum took place before January 10, 2017, Maduro would have had to resign and call for elections. If it happened afterwards, he would still have had to resign, but his vice-president could finish his term (2013-2019). The fact that the referendum would be delayed until 2017 was very likely from the onset. Although the MUD had been working hard to hold the referendum in 2016, it was quite possible that the CNE and other state institutions (particularly the pro-government Supreme Court) could delay it long enough to be held after January 2017. Thus, the move to stop the electoral contest is particularly puzzling, given that the delaying tactics appeared to be a less costly mechanism for Chavistas to remain in power.

Although blocking the referendum raised concerns, so far, the government had gotten away with an ever-feeble, yet still important, “democratic façade.” Although Chavismo has become more authoritarian after Chávez passed away, and its legitimacy has been significantly eroded in recent months, it has been difficult for the opposition movement and its allies to build support against the regime internationally. For a long time, the government had substantial electoral legitimacy at home and abroad: Chavismo won most elections under Chavez’s rule, accepted the results of the legislative elections in 2015, and frequently strived to nominally comply with constitutional norms, in order to keep appearances. Hindering a recall referendum that, clearly most Venezuelans want, falls outside this trend, and could undermine the government’s already weakening international legitimacy.

Additionally, the referendum is a constitutional and peaceful mechanism to remove Maduro from the presidency and commence a transition to democracy. Unless the economic and security situation improves overnight, stopping the referendum risks political violence, that could end in a forceful removal from power, as the opposition movement might resort to non-legal means to increase pressure on the incumbent regime. In light of these costs, and the fact that the government could have manipulated the electoral rules just enough to push the referendum beyond January 2017 and stay in power, why stop the process altogether?

There are at least two non-exclusive reasons that seem to be behind the move by the authorities to stop the referendum. First, the Maduro regime is trying to increase its leverage for a dialogue with the opposition, pushing them to negotiate concessions in exchange for regime change (such as amnesty, guarantees for political participation, assets protection, and so forth). Before October, there were few visible attempts to initiate negotiations between Chavistas and the MUD. Yet, these attempts were unsuccessful, due to strong criticism within the opposition coalition from a sector that until now –at least openly– refuses to negotiate with the government.

Secondly the regime might want to stop the referendum in order to avoid a transition to democracy altogether. Several key PSUV leaders have denied the possibility of a referendum, including Maduro himself, former chair of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, and others. More worryingly, this move could, reflect changes inside the government coalition, in particular the strengthening of hardliners and the already powerful military. It is well known that the latter has benefited immensely from the regime, receiving major economic benefits from their presence in major state operations –including the state-owned oil company PDVSA—and has been able to run corruption and drug trafficking schemes with impunity.[4]  A removal of the current Maduro regime,, regardless of whether it happens with a referendum or not, would likely deprive the military from such benefits. Additionally, officers could face criminal prosecution in a future regime. Hence, the military establishment might feel it has more to lose than to gain from a successful transition to democracy. It might be in their best interest to stop the recall referendum. Unlike the civilian faction of Chavismo, which fears an uprising or a coup, the armed forces have direct control of weaponry, military staff and even members inside the courts.[5] They can engage in repression and clamp down on any potential social mobilization or protest.

Despite MaduroÂŽs recent attempts to engage in a dialogue with the opposition, the mentioned worrisome scenarios cannot be discarded. Until a clear commitment to the referendum is made and an institutional path to regime change is preserved and respected, the suspension of the referendum might well block the possibility of a peaceful transition to democracy.

If the Referendum’s Path is Blocked, What is Next?

Consistent with the opposition’s non-violent mixed strategy of protests and elections, its response to the government’s decision to stop the referendum has been twofold. First, it called for pacific demonstrations asking the government to return to a “constitutional path,” replace justices and members of the CNE, and allow the referendum or early elections to take place. Second, some of its leaders agreed to participate in a dialogue with the government, with mediation of the Vatican and UNASUR. Although the talks are currently in course, for the time being, they have established a venue for discussion and negotiation between the government and the MUD.

The opposition’s strategy, however, is fraught with risks. On the one hand, the demonstrations could turn violent and give the government an excuse to call off the dialogues and escalate repression. On the other hand, the dialogue could be used by the government to catch its breath and stifle the momentum the opposition has had since last year, allowing it to postpone the referendum, creating more tensions within the opposition coalition, and eliminating the only escape valve available to channel popular discontent in Venezuela so far. The fact that the dialogue could backfire and strengthen Maduro’s embattled government, is in fact a possibility that seriously worries an important sector of the opposition and even some external observers.

Whether this happens or not, will largely depend on the international community willingness to pressure the incumbent government to negotiate, as well as the ability of the opposition to remain united, use the street protests strategically to increase the pressure for an agreement, and –simultaneously—accept some concessions towards the Chavista regime. A proper analysis of the dialogue process, will be contingent on how the coming days unfold. In the mean time, it behoves comparative scholars and international observers to follow the crisis in Venezuela and pay close attention to its development and still uncertain prospects.



[1] Corrales, Javier. “Autocratic legalism in Venezuela.” Journal of Democracy 26.2 (2015): 37-51.

[2] Kornblith, Miriam. “Chavismo After ChĂĄvez?.” Journal of Democracy 24.3 (2013): 47-61.

[3] Sanchez Urribarri, Raul A. “Courts between democracy and hybrid authoritarianism: evidence from the Venezuelan Supreme Court.” Law & Social Inquiry 36.4 (2011): 854-884, Corrales, Javier. “Autocratic legalism in Venezuela.” Journal of Democracy 26.2 (2015): 37-51

[4] Corrales, Javier “Explaining Chavismo: The Unexpected Alliance of Radical Leftists and the Military in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez” in Ricardo Hausmann and Francisco Rodríguez eds. Venezuela Before Chávez: Anatomy of an Economic Collapse. Univerity Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014.

[5] Trinkunas, Harold A. Crafting CivilianCcontrol of the Military in Venezuela: A Comparative Perspective. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

A reading list of political science research to help you make sense of the 2016 US presidential election

A guest contribution from Arndt Leininger,
Research Fellow at the Chairs for Public Policy and Empirical Political Science from the
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

Most political scientists, just like most pundits and pollsters, failed to see Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election coming. This has led to a range of criticisms leveled at political science, from a rejection of forecasting to wider debates on the direction of the discipline. I am less pessimistic about past, present or future achievements of the discipline. Partly, because the fact that a small part of the community did not predict a single event correctly should not interpreted to be more than that. Forecasting is neither the only nor the primary goal of political science. And lest we not forget, some political scientists did foresee a very close race and even a Trump win months before the election (this is what the first suggested reading is about).

In this blog post I want to highlight that ‘regular day-to-day political science research’ has a lot to contribute to our understanding of the 2016 US presidential election. This why this reading list is limited to published scholarly work (if you want to read up-to-date analyses and commentary on the election from political scientists I suggest you check out The Monkey Cage). I link to the original article as well as, if available, an ungated version. For the sake of brevity I limit the selection to only half a dozen articles which appeared in peer-reviewed journals. Obviously, such a reading list is neither comprehensive nor is it a selection of the six most relevant pieces. I invite colleagues to suggest further readings in the comments sections.

In focusing on forecasting, polling, sources of the anti-establishment vote, gender, populism and countering hate speech online these articles provide insights that are applicable beyond this year’s US presidential election. For all the sneering at the US, Europe has seen its fair share of electoral successes of right-wing populists and is anxiously looking ahead to the presidential election in France.

1. Political Science models that saw this coming

The forecasts which received most attention in the run-up to the election were poll-based forecasting models, partly because they were updated with each new poll coming in. The first reading is on a different set of forecasting models which focus on so called fundamentals such as presidential approval or economic growth. Simple econometric models based on such fundamentals forecast US presidential elections surprisingly well. This election seems to be no exception as this overview of fundamentals based models suggests. The author of the first reading in this list was ridiculed on social media for predicting a Trump victory – not anymore.

Norpoth, Helmut (2016) “Primary Model Predicts Trump Victory” PS: Political Science & Politics 49, 655–658. (article, ungated)

However unpredictable the ascent of Donald Trump onto the stage of presidential politics may have been, one forecast model has been highly confident for months that he would win the election on November 8, 2016. The Primary Model predicted on March 7, 2016 that Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton with 87 percent certainty. […] There is nothing to add to or subtract from the March forecast here. It was unconditional, final, and not subject to updating. Just in case Hillary Clinton would not be the Democratic nominee, the Primary Model gave the nod to Trump over Bernie Sanders with 99% certainty[.] What are the ingredients of this forecast model? [… T]he Primary Model relies on presidential primaries as a predictor of the vote in the general election; it also makes use of a swing of the electoral pendulum that is useful for forecasting ( For the record, the Primary Model, with slight modifications, has correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote in all five presidential elections since it was introduced in 1996[.] In recent elections the forecast has been issued as early as January of the election year. (articles has no abstract, this is an edit of the first three paragraphs)

2. Why are polls so volatile when votes seem so predictable?

If elections are so predictable as Norpoth argues why then is polling through the campaigns campaigns so volatile? The authors of the following piece provide an answer to this question. It seems that the primary role of campaigns seems to be informing voters about fundamentals which is why results are so predictable while polls are so variable.

Gelman, Andrew and King, Gary (1993) “Why Are American Presidential Election Campaign Polls So Variable When Votes Are So Predictable?”, British Journal of Political Science 23, 409–451. (article, ungated)

As most political scientists know, the outcome of the American presidential election can be predicted within a few percentage points (in the popular vote), based on information available months before the election. Thus, the general campaign for president seems irrelevant to the outcome (except in very close elections), despite all the media coverage of campaign strategy. However, it is also well known that the pre-election opinion polls can vary wildly over the campaign, and this variation is generally attributed to events in the campaign. How can campaign events affect people’s opinions on whom they plan to vote for, and yet not affect the outcome of the election? For that matter, why do voters consistently increase their support for a candidate during his nominating convention, even though the conventions are almost entirely predictable events whose effects can be rationally forecast? In this exploratory study, we consider several intuitively appealing, but ultimately wrong. resolutions to this puzzle and discuss our current understanding of what causes opinion polls to fluctuate while reaching a predictable outcome. Our evidence is based on graphical presentation and analysis of over 67,000 individual-level responses from forty-nine commercial polls during the 1988 campaign and many other aggregate poll results from the 1952-92 campaigns. We show that responses to pollsters during the campaign are not generally informed or even, in a sense we describe, ‘rational’. In contrast, voters decide, based on their enlightened preferences, as formed by the information they have learned during the campaign, as well! as basic political cues such as ideology and party identification, which candidate to support eventually. We cannot prove this conclusion, but we do show that it is consistent with the aggregate forecasts and individual-level opinion poll responses. Based on the enlightened preferences hypothesis, we conclude that the news media have an important effect on the outcome of presidential elections – not through misleading advertisements. sound bites, or spin doctors, but rather by conveying candidates’ positions on important issues.

3. Why does the rural working class vote for a New York billionaire?

Trump won the election by winning traditional blue states such as Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania. These states’ still strong working class populations traditionally tended to vote Democrat. Why then did rural working class people now vote for a New York billionaire who’s policies are detrimental to low-income workers? This article provides an interesting explanation. I guess it is worth pointing out that this now highly topical appeared in the discipline’s premier journal years before the election.

Cramer, Katherine J. (2012) “Putting Inequality in Its Place: Rural Consciousness and the Power of Perspective” American Political Science Review 106, 517–532. (article, ungated; view article online, ungated)

Why do people vote against their interests? Previous explanations miss something fundamental because they do not consider the work of group consciousness. Based on participant observation of conversations from May 2007 to May 2011 among 37 regularly occurring groups in 27 communities sampled across Wisconsin, this study shows that in some places, people have a class- and place-based identity that is intertwined with a perception of deprivation. The rural consciousness revealed here shows people attributing rural deprivation to the decision making of (urban) political elites, who disregard and disrespect rural residents and rural lifestyles. Thus these rural residents favor limited government, even though such a stance might seem contradictory to their economic self-interests. The results encourage us to consider the role of group consciousness-based perspectives rather than pitting interests against values as explanations for preferences. Also, the study suggests that public opinion research more seriously include listening to the public.

4. What’s sex(ism) got to do with it?

The 2016 election is all the more surprising because many observers saw it as pitting the worst qualified candidate ever against the best qualified candidate ever. In the end the man won leaving many to ask whether sexism is to blame. For those who want to understand the role a candidate’s gender plays in elections this article is a good starting point. Its results suggest that Clinton’s competence advantage was partly undone by her being a woman.

Fulton, Sarah A. (2014) “When Gender Matters: Macro-dynamics and Micro-mechanisms” Political Behavior 36, 605–630. (article, gated)

Does candidate sex matter to general election outcomes? And if so, under what conditions does sex exert an effect? Research conducted over the past 40 years has asserted an absence of a sex effect, consistently finding that women fare as well as men when they run. Nevertheless, this scholarship neglects sex-based differences in candidate valence, or non-policy characteristics such as competence and integrity that voters intrinsically value in their elected officials. If women candidates hold greater valence than men, and if women’s electoral success stems from this valence advantage, then women candidates would be penalized if they lacked the upper hand on valence. Recent research at the macro-level reports a 3 % vote disadvantage for women candidates when valence is held constant (Fulton, Political Res Q 65(2):303–314, 2012), but is based on only one general election year. The present study replicates Fulton’s (Political Res Q 65(2):303–314, 2012) research using new data from a more recent general election and finds a consistent 3 % vote deficit for women candidates. In addition, this paper extends these findings theoretically and empirically to the micro-level: examining who responds to variations in candidate sex and valence. Male independent voters, who often swing general elections, are equally supportive of women candidates when they have a valence advantage. Absent a relative abundance of valence, male independents are significantly less likely to endorse female candidates. If correct, the gender affinity effect is asymmetrical: male independent voters are more likely to support men candidates, and less likely to support women, but female independents fail to similarly discriminate.

5. Populism

Donald Trump is frequently called a populist. But what exactly is populism? Cas Mudde is the author of the probably most-cited definition of populism in recent empirical work. He defines populism as a thin-centered ideology (it can be left or right) that divides society into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, the good people and the corrupt elite, and claims that politics should be an expression of the general will of ‘the’ people. In this article he and his co-authors develop a survey instrument to measure populism in the population and apply it to a survey of Dutch citizens. I’m counting on seeing results its application in the US and other countries soon.

Akkerman, Agnes, Mudde, Cas, Zaslove, Andrej (2014) “How Populist Are the People? Measuring Populist Attitudes in Voters” Comparative Political Studies 47, 1324–1353. (article, gated)

The sudden and perhaps unexpected appearance of populist parties in the 1990s shows no sign of immediately vanishing. The lion’s share of the research on populism has focused on defining populism, on the causes for its rise and continued success, and more recently on its influence on government and on public policy. Less research has, however, been conducted on measuring populist attitudes among voters. In this article, we seek to fill this gap by measuring populist attitudes and to investigate whether these attitudes can be linked with party preferences. We distinguish three political attitudes: (1) populist attitudes, (2) pluralist attitudes, and (3) elitist attitudes. We devise a measurement of these attitudes and explore their validity by way of using a principal component analysis on a representative Dutch data set (N = 600). We indeed find three statistically separate scales of political attitudes. We further validated the scales by testing whether they are linked to party preferences and find that voters who score high on the populist scale have a significantly higher preference for the Dutch populist parties, the Party for Freedom, and the Socialist Party.

6. How to trump hate?

These days political science is blamed for inaccurate predictions. Most of the time however, it is blamed for being too focused on post-hoc explanations and problem diagnosis at the expense of prescriptive focus and solution orientation. Hence, my last choice in this reading list is an article which arguably possesses the latter qualities. One of the most worrying immediate effects of the forthcoming Trump presidency is that there seems to be an up-tick in racist and sexist conduct in the wake of the election, both on- and offline. The final article in this reading list presents and tests a strategy to combat racism on social media.

Munger, Kevin (2016) “Tweetment Effects on the Tweeted: Experimentally Reducing Racist Harassment” Political Behavior 1–21. (article, gated; final draft, ungated)

I conduct an experiment which examines the impact of group norm promotion and social sanctioning on racist online harassment. Racist online harassment de-mobilizes the minorities it targets, and the open, unopposed expression of racism in a public forum can legitimize racist viewpoints and prime ethnocentrism. I employ an intervention designed to reduce the use of anti-black racist slurs by white men on Twitter. I collect a sample of Twitter users who have harassed other users and use accounts I control (“bots”) to sanction the harassers. By varying the identity of the bots between in-group (white man) and out-group (black man) and by varying the number of Twitter followers each bot has, I find that subjects who were sanctioned by a high-follower white male significantly reduced their use of a racist slur. This paper extends findings from lab experiments to a naturalistic setting using an objective, behavioral outcome measure and a continuous 2-month data collection period. This represents an advance in the study of prejudiced behavior.

If you want to read more, you may want to check out this mock college syllabus on understanding Trump.

A tip of the hat to Tarik Abou-Chadi for recommending the articles by Sarah Fulton and Katherine Cramer, to Zoltan Fazekas for recommending the article by Kevin Munger and to Ilyas Saliba for pointing me to the mock college syllabus.

Demokratie spielend gestalten – Ein Fall fĂŒr das Demokratiebarometer


Mit dem Seminar „We the people: Demokratie spielend gestalten“ (Syllabus) haben Dr. Saskia Ruth und Dr. Rebecca Welge im FrĂŒhjahrssemester 2016 ein neues Lehrkonzept am Institut fĂŒr Politikwissenschaft der UniversitĂ€t ZĂŒrich getestet. Das Seminar verfolgte das Ziel gemeinsam mit Studierenden ein Demokratiespiel zu entwickeln, das die Kernelemente der Demokratie und ihre Zielkonflikte abbildet. Das Spiel soll spĂ€ter als angeleitetes Bildungsspiel in der UniversitĂ€tslehre eingesetzt werden können. Dabei standen sowohl die anwendungsorientierte BeschĂ€ftigung mit klassischen politikwissenschaftlichen Demokratietheorien als auch die interaktive Einbindung der Studenten in den Prozess der Spielentwicklung im Mittelpunkt.

Basierend auf zwei aktuellen Projekten der empirischen Demokratieforschung – dem Demokratiebarometer und dem Varieties of Democracy – arbeiteten die Studenten in der ersten HĂ€lfte des Seminars die relevanten Kernelemente, Funktionen und Institutionen der Demokratie heraus. Gleichzeitig identifizierten sie verschiedene Demokratieperspektiven als mögliche Spieler.

Untitled      Untitled2Fotos: Saskia P. Ruth & Rebecca Welge

Darauf aufbauend begannen die Teilnehmer in der zweiten HĂ€lfe des Seminars mit der Umsetzung ihrer gewonnenen Fachkenntnisse in thematisch relevante Spielmechanismen. Mit der UnterstĂŒtzung des Beraters fĂŒr Bildungsspielentwicklung Robert Lovell konnten die Studenten dann in einem abschliessenden Spieleworkshop Ideen in die Praxis und in mehrere Spielvarianten umsetzen. Dazu wurde vor Ort gebastelt, debattiert, angepasst und ausprobiert.

Ein Fazit zum Seminar: Mit hochmotivierten Teilnehmern ist vieles möglich! Gemeinsam nahmen sie die ersten Schritte in Richtung eines thematisch fundierten und spielerisch ansprechenden Demokratiespiels. Einen Erfahrungsbericht zum Seminar gibt es unter diesem Link.

Digital Humanities Preis 2016: Ehrung fĂŒr Manifesto Corpus

Der InterdisziplinĂ€re Forschungsverbund Digital Humanities in Berlin hat den „Manifesto Corpus“ des WZB mit dem diesjĂ€hrigen Berliner Digital Humanities Preis ausgezeichnet. Der Preis wĂŒrdigt die konsistente Nutzung von technischen und konzeptionellen Standards sowie die nachhaltige Erschließung kulturellen Erbes. Der „Manifesto Corpus“ ist eine digitale, frei zugĂ€ngliche und mehrsprachige Datenbank, die die derzeit grĂ¶ĂŸte Sammlung kommentierter Wahlprogramme umfasst.

Anne Baillot vom Centre Marc Bloch begrĂŒndete die Vergabe in ihrer Laudatio wie folgt: „Das ‚Manifesto Corpus‘ bietet als digitales Archiv freien Zugang zu den Originalformulierungen von Zielen und PolitikvorschlĂ€gen aus Wahlprogrammen. So gut zugĂ€nglich und vor allem quellentechnisch transparent ist der Zugriff auf internationale digitale Ressourcen in diesem Themenfeld an keiner anderen Stelle. Das macht das Alleinstellungsmerkmal des ‚Manifesto Corpus‘ aus.“

Ausgezeichnet wurden Pola Lehmann, Jirka Lewandowski, Theres Matthieß, Nicolas Merz, Sven Regel und Annika Werner, die im Rahmen des Manifesto-Projektes am WZB den Manifesto Corpus erstellt haben. Momentan umfasst der Corpus Wahlprogramme aus ĂŒber 40 LĂ€ndern in mehr als 30 verschiedenen Sprachen, von denen ĂŒber 1900 computerlesbar sind. Die digitalisierten Wahlprogramme ermöglichen eine nutzerspezifische Auswertung der Daten und eröffnen so vielfĂ€ltige Analysemöglichkeiten.

Die PreistrĂ€ger (von links nach rechts): Nicolas Merz, Theres Matthieß, Jirka Lewandowski, Pola Lehmann und Sven Regel

Das Manifesto-Projekt, in dessen Rahmen der Manifesto Corpus entwickelt wurde, befasst sich mit PrimĂ€rdaten zu Parteien und untersucht diese im Zusammenhang mit politischen Einstellungen der WĂ€hler. Bislang hat das Projekt, das 1979 gegrĂŒndet wurde, ĂŒber 1000 Parteien von 1945 bis heute in ĂŒber 50 LĂ€ndern und auf fĂŒnf Kontinenten ausgewertet.

Der Preis wurde im Rahmen eines Festakts an der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften am 7. Juni 2016 vergeben.

ĂŒber den DĂ€chern Berlins am Gendarmenmarkt wurde im Anschluss an die Preisverleihung angestossen.

ĂŒber den DĂ€chern Berlins am Gendarmenmarkt wurde im Anschluss an die Preisverleihung angestossen.

Pressemitteilung der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften:

Weitere Informationen zum Manifesto-Projekt: