Our research focuses on the comparative study of contemporary democracies. It covers the micro-level of individual citizens as well as the macro-level of political institutions and processes. Areas of particular interest are:

  • Public opinion, voting behavior, and party politics
  • Political Economy, in particular, welfare state politics and political consequences of economic inequality
  • Globalization and its challenges to democracy

Ongoing Dissertation Projects

Policy Dimensions and the Party Politics of the Welfare State (Sven Hillen)
Does it (still) make a difference to welfare policy whether left or right parties hold government? Do left governments pursue more expansionary policies than their right counterparts? This dissertation project investigates these familiar yet still contested questions with a focus on how political competition shapes the effects of government partisanship. Drawing on the premise that political parties cater to the preferences of their core voters, it argues that attributes of political competition—such as voter turnout and issue salience—which have a bearing on how and why social classes align with parties determine the way left and right governments influence social policy. Particular interest lies in examining the consequence of political competition on more than one policy dimension (i.e., not all controversial policy issues align with each other, forming a single left-right dimension) for individuals’ voting behavior and political support on the one hand and macro-level partisan effects on the welfare state on the other.


Published Dissertations

Explaining European Identity Formation (Stephanie Bergbauer)

What makes people identify with Europe? To answer this question, this book analyzes the development and determinants of a common European identity among EU citizens from the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 to the recent financial and economic crisis. The author examines citizens’ identification with Europe for all EU member states, and systematically explores the theoretical and empirical implications of two turning points in the recent history of EU integration, namely the EU’s enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe in 2004/2007 and the financial and economic crisis that started in 2008. The book integrates theoretical approaches to European identity in sociology, social-psychology and EU public opinion research in a comprehensive model for explaining individual identification with Europe. The empirical analysis employs a multilevel framework to systematically assess the influence of individual characteristics and the political, economic, and social context on citizens’ feelings of identity. The long analysis period spanning from 1992 to the present allows inferences to be drawn about the long-term developments in the sources of European identification as well as the immediate impact of EU enlargement and the crisis on the determinants of European identification.

Bergbauer, Stephanie (2018): Explaining European Identity Formation. Citizens' Attachment from Maastricht Treaty to Crisis, Cham: Springer International.
ISBN: 978-3-319-67707-1


Theorie und Empirie der Globalisierung (Johannes Kessler)

Kessler, Johannes (2016): Theorie und Empirie der Globalisierung. Grundlagen eines konsistenten Globalisierungsmodells, Wiesbaden: Springer.
ISBN: 978-3-658-02387-4


Citizen Support for Democratic and Autocratic Regimes (Marlene Mauk)

The book takes a political-culture perspective on the struggle between democracy and autocracy by examining how these regimes fare in the eyes of their citizens. Taking a globally comparative approach, it studies both the levels as well as the individual- and system-level sources of political support in democracies and autocracies worldwide. The book develops an explanatory model of regime support which includes both individual- and system-level determinants and specifies not only the general causal mechanisms and pathways through which these determinants affect regime support but also spells out how these effects might vary between the two types of regimes. It empirically tests its propositions using multi-level structural equation modeling and a comprehensive dataset that combines recent public-opinion data from six cross-national survey projects with aggregate data from various sources for more than one hundred democracies and autocracies. It finds that both the levels and individual-level sources of regime support are the same in democracies and autocracies, but that the way in which system-level context factors affect regime support differs between the two types of regimes. The results enhance our understanding of what determines citizen support for fundamentally different regimes, help assessing the present and future stability of democracies and autocracies, and provide clear policy implications to those interested in strengthening support for democracy and/or fostering democratic change in autocracies.

Mauk, Marlene (2020): Citizen Support for Democratic and Autocratic Regimes, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ISBN: 978-0-1988-5485-2


Wahlentscheidungen in postsozialistischen Demokratien in Mittel- und Osteuropa (Tatjana Rudi)

Rudi, Tatjana (2010): Wahlentscheidungen in postsozialistischen Demokratien in Mittel- und Osteuropa. Eine vergleichende Untersuchung, Baden-Baden: Nomos (Studien zur Wahl- und Einstellungsforschung, Band 15).
ISBN: 978-3-832-94608-1


Essays on Globalization and Democracy (Nils Steiner)

Paper-based dissertation, consisting of the following articles:

Steiner, Nils D. (2010): Economic Globalization and Voter Turnout in Established DemocraciesElectoral Studies, 29 (3): 444-459.

Steiner, Nils D./Martin, Christian W. (2012): Economic Integration, Party Polarization and Electoral TurnoutWest European Politics, 35 (2): 238-265.

Steiner, Nils D. (2016): Economic Globalisation, the Perceived Room to Manoeuvre of National Governments, and Electoral Participation: Evidence from the 2001 British General ElectionElectoral Studies, 41(1): 118-128.

Steiner, Nils D. (2016): Comparing Freedom House Democracy Scores to Alternative Indices and Testing for Political Bias: Are US Allies Rated as More Democratic by Freedom House?, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 18(4): 329-394.


The Formation of Support for the European Union in Central and Eastern Europe (Bettina Wagner)

Why do citizens from Central and Eastern Europe support or reject the European Union? It is unlikely that general evaluations of the EU emerge solely from attitudes towards the EU. This is because the EU is a remote and complex political system, especially for citizens from new EU member states. This book identifies and analyzes the opinion formation process that leads to support for or rejection of the EU by Central and Eastern European citizens. A theoretical model is developed on the basis of findings from research on EU support and cognitive psychology. This model is tested empirically using survey data. The results show that citizens use cognitive heuristics when they are asked to evaluate the EU. They rely on existent attitudes towards their own familiar political system, the nation-state, to form opinions about the EU.

Wagner, Bettina (2012): The Formation of Support for the European Union in Central and Eastern Europe. The Role of National Attitudes as Cognitive Heuristics, Baden-Baden: Nomos (Studien zur Wahl- und Einstellungsforschung, Band 21).
ISBN: 978-3-832-97096-3