Jan 162021
Trump and trees 1

On today’s walk in the local woods, I found this unexpected piece of political art. Stick-Trump is saying “bye”. The stick-kids are asking where their family might be. Who made this and left it here?

Trump and trees 2
Dec 162020

Do populist media frames work as expected?

Everyone and their grandfather are worried about (right-wing) populism, filter bubbles, frames, and their effects on western publics. But do they actually work? This large team ran an experiment in many European countries to find out. You will be shocked when you see hypothesis #7!

Bos, L., Schemer, C., Corbu, N., Hameleers, M., Andreadis, I., Schulz, A., Schmuck, D., … (2020). The effects of populism as a social identity frame on persuasion and mobilisation: evidence from a 15-country experiment. European Journal of Political Research, 59(1), 3–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12334

In other words, here is another article that we tackled in my reading course on political participation.

What we liked

Experiments are cool. Large-scale, multi-national experiments with fixed country effects are double cool. This is an actual test of causal effects (although can always worry about external validity). The effects are very weak (and sometimes counter-intuitive), but that is empirical social science for you. Have I mentioned that we were really impressed by the design?

What we are reading: populism, identity, and mobilisation 3

What we did not like so much

Students said that the authors used a lot of theory to derive relatively simple (but plausible) hypotheses. Conversely, they introduced an interaction between the frames without explaining why this interaction should occur. More importantly, the interpretation of the interactions’ statistical significance was a bit iffy (paging Brambor et al. 2006), and the graphical presentation and interpretation of the interaction effects is … suboptimal? Having said that, we liked how the authors demonstrated susceptibility to their stimulus varies in a predictable way within experimental groups. Incidentally, this was also useful for illustrating the idea of average treatment effects.

Dec 092020

Why are city folk more tolerant?

In the olden days, people claimed that city air would set you free. In our times, that may not be true in a strict sense (hey, surveillance capitalism!), but people living in big cities are certainly much more relaxed about many things, including immigration. Is this a result of the more liberal urban context, or do open-minded individuals congregate in cities?

In the fifth week of our reading seminar on participation, we turned to this text to find out :point_down:

Maxwell, R. (2019). Cosmopolitan immigration attitudes in large european cities: contextual or compositional effects? American Political Science Review, 113(2), 456–474. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0003055418000898

What we liked

Students loved the research question, and the range and quality of data sources that went into this paper is fantastic. The author uses national long-term panels to demonstrate that moving to a city (or planning to move) does not change attitudes. That’s pretty solid. Students were not sure if they found the main findings surprising or not, but they were certainly impressed with themselves: while the analysis is quite complex, the exposition was so clear that they could follow without a hitch. Yay us, yay the author!

What we are reading: Immigration attitudes and the city 4

What we did not like so much

I have fed my students a steady diet of short articles from good journals. Encountering the result of the APSR’s 12,000 word limit was a bit of a shock. According to them, there were too many hypotheses, of which they lost track eventually. They found the sheer amount of data somewhat overwhelming. And they could not believe that someone would seriously cap all this with approximately 50 pages of online appendices.

Dec 022020

Conflict in the hood

It’s week four of my reading course on political participation, and we are tackling this one:

Nijs, T., Stark, T. H., & Verkuyten, M. (2019). Negative intergroup contact and radical right-wing voting: the moderating roles of personal and collective self-efficacy. Political Psychology, 40(5), 1057–1073. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/pops.12577

The research question is quite specific. The authors start with the reasonable assumption that negative inter-ethnic contacts could lead to threat perceptions, which in turn make radical right voting more likely, then turn to psychological factors (individual and collective self-efficacy) that could moderate this effect.

What we liked

Students do not get enough of radical right research, and they found these quite fascinating. They liked that the items were tailored to the research question and were very much in favour of including, you know, psychology in the equation(s). They also argued that the authors’ fielding an online survey was particularly apt, because there is less reason to worry about reactivity. And finally, they gave extra points for the authors’ candid assessment of their work’s limitations.

What we are reading: Negative intergroup contact and radical right voting 5

What we did not like so much

Not much, actually. Students and I asked for interaction plots. They found the terminology somewhat complicated (comes with the territory) and thought that the presentation of the results was a bit on the short side (due to Political Psychology’s strict word limit). By and large, we were quite happy.

Nov 252020

What has salience to do with it?

In the third week of my reading class, we read this recent paper

Dennison, J. (2020). How issue salience explains the rise of the populist right in western europe. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 32(3), 397–420. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijpor/edz022

The author argues that various explanations for radical right support are all linked to the salience of their issues (first and foremost immigration).

What we liked

The students (and I) thought this was an interesting new approach to an already crowded (but still interesting) field. Students found the text accessible and well-structured, liked the models (particularly the presentation of the fixed effects approach, which was new to most of them) and the literature review. They also said the benefited from the carefully written introduction and the extensive conclusions.

What we did not like so much

There was not much we did not like, but some minor points were raised. The figures were less than perfectly readable. The argument for aggregating individual data was not immediately obvious (but became clear once we discussed the alternatives). Students would have liked some explanations re the random effects specification and asked for replication data.

What we are reading: Issue salience and the rise of the radical right 6

We also wondered if it would have been possible/necessary to include fixed effects in the structural equation model. And finally, the students were a bit disappointed that the only case for which individual data were available was the UK, arguably an unusual case in the larger far-right landscape. But at the end of the day, we very much enjoyed reading this text.