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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Political Sociology and Social Policy

Ongoing Projects


Remembering and Decision-making in Times of Social Acceleration: Towards a Democratic Archivology

Dr. Andreas Schäfer



Green parties and their supporters: Cucumbers or Watermelons?

Prof. Dr. Hanna Schwander (with Leonce Röth and Björn Bremer)

This project investigates the relevance of the rise of Green parties for distributive politics in advanced democracies. We first study this question from a supply side of political competition, that is the impact of Green party government participation on distributive policy-making, namely on three dimensions of distributive policy-making: social consumption, social investment and taxation policies. Based on an encompassing cross-national data set from 1970 to 2015, we find that the inclusion of Green parties in national governments leads to higher spending on social investment, while the status quo prevails regarding social consumption and taxation. Nonetheless, as procurers of centre-left majorities, Greens in government prevent retrenchment on social consumption and decreasing corporate and top marginal income taxes.
Simultaneously we study the demand side implications of the Green wave for distributive politics, that is the distributive preferences of Green voters, compared to the preferences of the voters of the old left. Based on the material self-interest and the ideological predisposition of Green voters, we argue and demonstrate that Green voters are economically left voters but have different social policy preferences than social democratic voters. The results show that Green voters are strongly committed to the welfare state but demand a different kind of welfare state than social democrats. They are more likely to support social investment than social consumption and have also different visions for the future welfare state: Green voters strongly endorse a European social protection scheme and a Universal Basic Income. Our results imply that the realignment within the left has far-reaching implications for the welfare state.



Disentangling the modern gender vote gap – a refinement of women’s political alignment

Prof. Dr. Hanna Schwander

In this project I examine women's changing political alignment in Western Europe. Have women’s policy preferences really changed or have they only switched their political affinity? Do we observe a divergent pattern of both political preferences and voting behavior among different sub-groups of female voters? Which role do parties and their programmatic orientations play in the realignment between women and parties.
By answering these questions, the project seeks to provide a comprehensive analysis of women’s political realignment by providing a refined and in-depth analysis of women’s interests and preferences and accounting for the ideological orientation of parties. First, I study whether the gender vote gap is accompanied by a corresponding gender preferences gap that explains the link between women and parties. Second, I disaggregate the analysis political orientation by taking into account the household or family constellation. Third, I integrate the supply side of political competition, i.e. parties and their ideological orientation, into the study of women’s political realignment.



Inequality, representation and the welfare state

Prof. Dr. Hanna Schwander (with Dominic Gohla and Armin Schäfer)

The increase of inequality in most advanced democracies is even more worrisome as economic inequality is related to a number of social and political disadvantages. Having worked extensively on the origins and political implications of labor market inequality, I focus now the links between economic deprivation and political inequality as well as the role of political actors in mediating this link.
For instance, I am interested in the nexus between inequality, turnout and populism. We study whether economic inequality lowers electoral participation and among which voter groups. We also study whether populist parties moderates the negative effect of inequality on voter turnout. Since populist parties seek to mobilize disadvantaged groups that are less likely to participate in elections, their success could lead to higher and less unequal turnout rates. To assess whether this holds true, we analyze a dataset encompassing data on 296 national parliamentary elections in 31 European countries between 1970 and 2016. We find that as the share of populist voters increases, the effect of inequality on electoral participation diminishes, a finding that holds for both right- and left-wing populist parties with a slightly stronger effect of right-wing populism. After the Great Recession, the effect size increases. 


Prof. Dr. Hanna Schwander (with Philip Manow)

Another project studies the rise of the German AfD, a right-wing populist party. Until recently, the resilience of the German party system to such a party has been an exception to this general trend. The establishment of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the wake of the Eurozone crisis put an end to this German exceptionalism. We test the ‘losers of modernization’-thesis, one of the most dominant explanations for right-wing populist voting, for the case of the AfD. Based on district level data from the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development and official data on electoral outcomes, we examine whether the socio- economic characteristics of a district yield any explanatory power for the AfD’s electoral success in the federal elections. The findings suggest that the modernization thesis bears little relevance for the success of the populist right in Germany. By contrast, we find a strong correlation between the AfD’s electoral success and the success of radical right parties in previous elections in the same district. We explain this intriguing finding with a “tradition of radical right voting” and a specific political culture on which the AfD has been able to draw once the broader political and social context allowed for the creation of a right-wing populist party in Germany.



Changing welfare state policies.

Prof. Dr. Hanna Schwander (with Jane Gingrich and Desmond King)

The declined capacity of social policy to cushion market inequality and a widespread liberalization trend of labor markets (although often at the margins of labor markets) is an important driver of inequality. Together with Desmond King and Jane Gingrich, I trace the dark side of the `activation turn' of unemployment compensation over the last decades in a case based study of four Continental countries. As a result of the dominance of the neo-liberal paradigm and the corresponding changes of in social coalitions, we argue that unemployment benefts have not only become more unemployed-centered but also more conditional on proving deservingness, thus reducing the social right of receiving unemployment compensation also in Continental and Northern Europe. But introducing conditionality is not sucient to move the unemployed back into the labor market. We argue that a) conditionality has to be actually enforced by the means of sanctions, and b) that this enforcement depends on the state's capacity to monitor the unemployed and the labor market's capacity to absorb the unemployed (low wage sector). The selection of cases selection motivated by similarity in reform pressure but variation in capacity and enforcement of conditionality: Germany, France, United Kingdom and Italy.