Dec 162020

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.

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 one 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 1

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.

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