Research Projects

My current research focuses mainly on populist parties in Western Europe. More precisely, I concentrate on three crucial questions :

  1. How and why do populist radical right parties change their ideological positions?
  2. To what extent is populism not only an ideological feature of the party but also of individual representatives, especially candidates?
  3. How does populism shape the discoursive aspects of party competition, and how do mainstream parties react to populist radical right parties?

In this regard, I am currently the manager of two funded research projects. Find out more by clicking the links:

I. The Populist Radical Right and Protectionism

II. The Populist Challenge in the German Parliaments

Furthermore, I pay special consideration to the case of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Considering the remarkable change of this party from a Euroskeptical formation in 2013 to a populist radical right party in 2018, my research investigates:

  • its ideological characteristics;
  • the attitudes of its candidates and
  • its electoral supporter base.

Apart from other results, here are some findings on the AfD (this section will be frequently updated):

  1. The AfD is not a pure ‘protest party’. Even in the 2013 general election and the 2014 European election, electoral support for the AfD is best explained through issue voting rather than protest voting (Wagner et al., 2015, see also Schwarzbözl & Fatke, 2016). The AfD filled a conservative/Euroskeptical research gap in the party spectrum rather than being supported merely by pure ‘protest’ (apart from the conceptual problems that come with this term).
  2. The AfD contained populist radical right potential from the beginning, according to the attitudes of its candidates. Even though the party did not diplay the typical profile of a right-wing populist exponent in its manifestos or political communication in general (see Berbuir et al., 2015; Arzheimer, 2015; Franzmann, 2014), its candidates in the 2013 general election already were, on average, the most right-wing as well as the most populist candidates in the German party system:
Source: Lewandowsky et al., 2016, p. 263.
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