Work in progress

This page contains information about my ongoing research projects, including abstracts and the option to download working papers.

Healthcare priorities: The politics of trade-offs in health policy preferences (with Sharon Baute, Marius Busemeyer and Olivier Jacques)

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Abstract:

This project examines the fiscal trade-offs of rising healthcare costs, focusing on individual preferences in high-income countries. It explores how citizens prioritize healthcare spending relative to spending in other social policy areas and whether they would support increased healthcare spending even in the face of tax increases and cuts in other social policies. The project conducts surveys in four countries with varying healthcare systems (Switzerland, Canada, Denmark and Germany) in early 2024. The survey includes wording experiments, conjoint experiments, and budget point allocation questions to identify trade-offs and priorities in health policy preferences. Overall, the project aims to understand the political feasibility of policy reforms addressing rising healthcare costs, contributing to both the health policy reform and the broader welfare state reform literature. The project is funded the University of Lucerne’s research committee (FoKo) and is conducted in collaboration with Sharon Baute, Marius Busemeyer (both University of Konstanz), and Olivier Jacques (University of Montréal).

Managing Digitalization at the Company Level: Perceptions and Policy Responses to Artificial Intelligence among Managers and Employees (with Kees van Kersbergen)

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Abstract:

In this paper, we explore the transformative political and policy implications of artificial intelligence (AI), a key driver of the most recent wave of rapid technological innovation. Our focus is twofold: we aim to enhance our theoretical understanding of AI and its unique characteristics, and we provide empirical evidence on AI’s real-world impact in firms from both managerial and employee perspectives.

Our research questions include: how do managers and employees perceive AI and its impact on the workplace? What social (unemployment) policies and regulation do managers and employees prefer to deal with AI’s (potential) impact on unemployment and inequality? To what extent does information on potential job losses due to AI affects managers’ and employees’ preferences for unemployment policy and regulation?

The central hypothesis we explore is that managers and employees have systematically different estimations of the impact of AI, even within the same firm or sector. We furthermore hypothesize that the more the economic effects of AI are portrayed as negative, the more both employers and employees will support compensatory unemployment policy.

We contribute, first, by dissecting AI from the broader concept of digital transformation, such as automation and robotization, to better define its unique features and risk profile. We highlight how AI challenges traditional notions of the direction, speed, and ‘bias’ of technological change, necessitating theoretical innovation.

Second, we present empirical findings from a novel firm-level survey of Danish managers, coupled with a register-based survey of employees. This combined approach allows us to study the actual impact of AI on individual companies from complementary perspectives. Specifically, we investigate managerial and employee estimations of AI’s impact on employees, how AI affects employers’ and employees’ social policy preferences, and (experimentally) to what extent information on the amount of potential job losses due to AI leads to a change in preference for unemployment policy and regulation. 

Does symbolic representation through class signaling appeal to voters? Evidence from a conjoint experiment (with Sarah Engler)

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Abstract:

Affluent voters are over-represented in politics. The persisting lack of descriptive representation even among left parties with strong working-class ties or populist radical right parties continues to puzzle researchers. In this paper, we provide a novel explanation for the under-representation of voters from lower socio-economic backgrounds. We focus on symbolic representation and argue that political elites can engage in symbolic representation through class signalling to compensate for lack of descriptive representation. Using original survey data from a conjoint experiment in Switzerland in 2023, we find that many voters are biased in favour of politicians from less affluent backgrounds and class-neutral cultural consumption. More importantly, we demonstrate that both types of symbolic class signalling increase support for affluent politicians among less affluent voters. Hence, symbolic representation can “compensate” for lack of descriptive representation. This contributes to our understanding of the puzzle why descriptive misrepresentation persists.

Download working paper (June 2023) here.

Why Citizens Want Something for Nothing: Three Explanations for Unfunded Spending Demand? (with Silke Goubin, Olivier Jacques and Staffan Kumlin)

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Abstract

While classical models in political economy suggest that citizens facing adverse economic situations prefer to increase redistribution and welfare state effort, recent studies have shown that economic decline is associated with a reduction of willingness to pay taxes. Therefore, economic decline makes citizens more likely to want “something for nothing”: they don’t accept to pay for the additional public spending they demand. We test our arguments in a hard case, Norway, where support for taxes and spending are generally coherent and ideologically determined. Finding that Norwegians facing economic hardship want additional spending, but lower taxes would go against the consensus in the literature on public opinion on welfare states in Nordic countries. Our empirical analysis uses three waves of a panel survey conducted in Norway in 2014, 2015 and 2017 which allows us to leverage variation between and within individual respondents. We study the impact of both perceived and objective economic risks on two measures of preferences for welfare state benefits, two measures of willingness to pay taxes and a joint measure of support for taxes and spending. We find that low income and low education voters as well as those with high perceived economic risks are more likely to prefer something for nothing: they are in favour of more welfare spending, but tend to oppose tax increases.

Winning with Equality: How Left-wing Parties Attract Votes but Amplify Electoral Cleavages (with Alexander Horn and Carsten Jensen)

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Abstract:

Western democracies have undergone profound changes in the past decades. Traditional class-based voting has declined, while new socio-political issues like equal rights for disadvantaged groups, such as women and ethnic and sexual minorities, have emerged. Sometimes derogatorily referred to as “wokeism”, this heightened sensitivity towards social inequalities has also been described as a wedge issue that pitches center-left parties against more activist postmaterialist new left parties.

In this paper, we ask how the rising awareness on equal rights affects party competition, specifically focusing on center-left and postmaterialist left parties. Social democratic center-left parties have historically championed reducing economic inequalities through expansive welfare programs and progressive taxation. They enjoyed high “issue ownership” on economic equality. As postmaterialist left parties have begun to emphasize equal rights as a – perhaps even more important – dimension of equality, the electoral value of such hard-earned issue ownership may be diminished.

We focus on two related questions. First, which parties benefit from emphasizing equality issues, and how has this evolved over time? Drawing on issue ownership theory, we argue that postmaterialist left parties, rooted in social rights and protest movements, gain electoral support by highlighting equal rights, while mainstream center-left parties attract votes by emphasizing economic equality, although this effect may have declined in recent years. Second, do these electoral strategies amplify the social division of the party system along socioeconomic lines? Inspired by extant research on electoral realignment, we argue that parties emphasizing equal rights increasingly attract highly educated voters, while emphasis on economic equality attracts low-income voters.

We explore these expectations by combining a novel dataset on the emphasis on equality during election campaigns – based on 47.439 crowd-coded party manifesto statements to decipher positive references to economic equality or equal rights – with national election surveys in seven countries (Australia, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA) from the 1970s until today. We find strong evidence for our expectations, but with the important nuance that mainstream center-left parties have gained surprisingly much from emphasizing both economic equality and equal rights. This suggests that the center-left benefits electorally from embracing both the traditional stance of economic equality as well as the new issue of equal rights for disadvantaged groups. At the same time, we show that this successful electoral strategy amplifies cleavages between educational and income groups. It is, in other words, an electoral strategy with possibly dire consequences for social divisions in society.

Income Stagnation and the Political Backlash against Advanced Welfare States (with Olivier Jacques and Tim Vlandas)

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Abstract:

What are the political consequences of long-run income stagnation and decline for welfare states across advanced capitalist democracies (ACDs)? We argue that long-run income falls lead to a political backlash against the taxes necessary to fund welfare states. We develop a theoretical framework linking people’s declining income to their lower support for taxes that fund social insurance and consumption smoothing, which both shift income from one’s present to one’s future, and redistribution, which shifts income from oneself to others. We test linkages between economic decline and tax preferences on panel survey data from the United States, repeated cross-section survey data in Canada and Japan. Matching unique information on income changes with cross-national micro-level data on both policy preferences and electoral behaviour, we further show that income declines increase individual preferences for - and electoral behaviour rewarding - spending cuts. The long-run evolution of income therefore plays a crucial role in the politics of welfare states across ACDs.

Liberalization and income inequality: A comparative analysis (1976-2013) (with Klaus Armingeon)

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Abstract:

This paper examines the relationship between liberalization, which involves removing market barriers and restrictions on free markets, and income inequality in 18 democratic capitalist countries from 1976 to 2013. We argue that the distributive impact of liberalization depends on the specific characteristics of the policies implemented, such as the policy field and intensity of the reform. The study uses a new dataset on liberalization reforms and finds that liberalization reforms are associated with higher levels of income inequality in the long run, primarily through widening the distribution of market incomes and reducing redistribution by the state. We show that liberalization affects bottom-end inequality more strongly than top-end inequality and that liberalization of taxes and transfer policies are more strongly associated with rising inequality than other policy areas. Finally, we provide evidence for a compensation effect, where de-liberalization policy reforms can partially moderate the inegalitarian impact of liberalization reforms.

Striving for equality or resenting the status quo? Unfairness perceptions and voting behavior (with Leo Ahrens)

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Abstract:

This study shows that voting behavior in European countries can be explained by peoples’ stance on economic inequality, in particular their fairness evaluation of the income distribution. The argument is that unfairness perceptions trigger either a desire for more equality or socio-economic resentment. A desire for equality arises because people strive for a fair distribution of economic resources, and it is associated with a higher (lower) probability of voting for left (right) parties due to their equality-related policy stances. Resentment arises especially when people think that they themselves are treated unfairly, and it comes with feeling of being “left behind” unduly as well as a wish to boost their social status. Resentment is associated with voting for radical parties, especially on the right, because they offer a discourse and policies that aim to boost the standing of the “unduly disadvantaged”. Our empirical analysis based on European Social Survey (ESS) data supports these theoretical ex-pectations. Unfairness perceptions are strongly associated with a higher probability of voting for the left and a lower probability of voting for the mainstream right. Further analyses suggest that these effects are mediated by redistribution preferences (issue-based voting for the left or against the right) and political distrust, dissatisfaction, political efficacy, and immigration attitudes (resentment-based voting for the radical right).

Permanent Income and Electoral Realignment

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Abstract:

Many scholars argue that education or occupation, not income, are key to explain electoral realignment. Yet income is generally conceptualized as short-term, current income. In this paper, I introduce “permanent income”, a long-term income measure over people’s entire lifespan, to re-examine the relationship between income and electoral realignment. I argue that permanent income closely overlaps with education and that the association between permanent income and voting is driven by important changes in composition and size of education-income groups. Using national election studies from Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States from the 1950s to the present, I find that electoral realignment is driven by higher-educated voters with high permanent income increasingly associated with mainstream left parties, and by lower-educated voters with low permanent income increasingly associated with mainstream right parties. The findings point to both material and non-material channels behind the effects of income and education on electoral behaviour.

Working paper (September 2022) available on request.