Working Papers

Curious about my current research projects? Below, I’ve listed some of my ongoing research papers. If you’d like to access the latest versions of any of these papers or if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Generational Change in Party Support in Germany: The Decline of the Volksparteien, the Rise of the Greens, and the Transformation of the Education Divide

Nils D. Steiner

Abstract: Motivated by the eroding support for the old “Volksparteien” CDU/CSU and SPD, especially among younger voters, this study conducts an age-period-cohort analysis of vote choices in all twenty German elections, from 1949 to 2021. I study both generational differences in levels of party support and the changing effect of education on voting. The results, first, point to the importance of generational replacement in understanding parties’ shifting fortunes, with the CDU/CSU and the SPD being weaker in more recent cohorts and the Greens stronger. Second, while high education divides voters of the old right (CDU/CSU and especially FDP) and left (SPD) in earlier cohorts, it increasingly divides voters of the new-left Greens and the radical-right AfD in more recent cohorts. This study enhances our understanding of the changing patterns of party support in the German electorate and, as a broader lesson, shows how electoral realignment is driven by generational replacement. [PDF]

Sympathies for Putin Within the German Public: A Consequence of Political Alienation?

Lucca Hoffeller & Nils D. Steiner

Abstract: The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has sparked significant interest in the attitudes of the German public towards the Putin regime. In this article, we analyze survey data from a German panel to investigate the factors influencing sympathies towards Vladimir Putin following his decision to launch a war of aggression. Our central argument revolves around the role of political alienation, encompassing a lack of trust of political institutions in Germany, alongside more diffuse elements such as low support for democracy as a regime, a sense of estrangement from public discourse, and an inclination towards conspiracy thinking. Using longitudinal analyses, we provide empirical evidence consistent with our argument that political alienation—particularly in terms of low political trust and a proclivity for conspiracy thinking—plays a crucial role in driving sympathies for Putin and his regime. Against the backdrop of mounting attempts by Russia and other autocratic powers to influence discourses in Western societies via certain societal segments, our findings shed light on why individuals living in democratic nations may develop sympathetic attitudes towards autocratic leaders from abroad. [LINK]

Perceptions of Policy Responsiveness: Egocentric or Sociotropic?

Sven Hillen, Nils D. Steiner & Claudia Landwehr

Abstract: Policy responsiveness has come to be regarded as a central criterion for successful democratic representation, and a burgeoning body of research studies it empirically. Yet, we know little about citizens’ perceptions of policy responsiveness and what drives those. In this paper, we ask whether citizens’ perceptions of whether governments are responsive to citizen preferences are primarily sociotropic, being driven by congruence with the median citizen, or egocentric, being driven by congruence with their own positions. We study this question using cross-national European data, combining citizen data from the ESS (waves 6 and 10) with data on government positions calculated from CHES party position data. We find that citizens assess government responsiveness to be higher when government positions are close to their own views. This finding holds both for the general left-right dimension as well as more specific issue positions. In contrast, there is only mixed evidence that congruence with the median citizen matters for how citizens assess governmental responsiveness to popular majorities. ]

Wählerwanderungen von und zu der AfD in der COVID-19-Pandemie

Manuskript für einen Beitrag zum Blauen Band “Wahlen und Wähler: Analysen aus Anlass der Bundestagswahl 2021”, hrsg. von Harald Schoen und Bernhard Weßels. Vorab-Version vom 20.12.2022.

Nils D. Steiner

Abstract: Dieses Kapitel betrachtet Wählerwanderungen weg von der AfD und hin zur AfD zwischen den Bundestagswahlen 2017 und 2021 vor dem Hintergrund der COVID-19-Pandemie. Im Mittelpunkt steht die Frage, wie sich die Einstellung zu den COVID-19-Schutzmaßnahmen auf die Wahrscheinlichkeit ausgewirkt hat, bei der Bundestagswahl 2021 wieder bzw. neu die AfD zu wählen. Die Analysen auf Basis des GLES Panels 2017-2021 dokumentieren einen erheblichen Wählerabfluss von der AfD – auch zu den etablierten Parteien. Die Abwanderung von früheren AfD-Wählern hängt dabei stark von deren Zustimmung zu den COVID-19-Schutzmaßnahmen ab. Ebenso steht die AfD-Wahl unter Personen, die sie 2017 noch nicht gewählt haben, in einem engen Zusammenhang mit der Ablehnung der COVID-19-Maßnahmen. Die Ergebnisse der Paneldatenanalyse tragen zu Forschungsdebatten zu den elektoralen Konsequenzen der COVID-19-Pandemie, zum Wandel des AfD-Elektorats und zur Rückgewinnbarkeit der Wähler von radikal-rechten Parteien bei. [PDF]

Rising Inequality and Public Support for Redistribution

Sven Hillen & Nils D. Steiner

Abstract: Seminal models in political economy imply that rising economic inequality leads to growing public demand for redistribution. Yet, existing empirical evidence on this link is both limited and inconclusive—and scholars frequently doubt it exists at all. In this research note, we turn to data from the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP)’s Social Inequality surveys, now covering the period from 1987 to 2019, to reassess the effect of rising inequality on support for redistribution. We find, first, that when income inequality rises in a country, public support for income redistribution tends to go up. Second, we examine the reaction across income groups to adjudicate between different models of how rising inequality matters. We find that the reaction is strongest among the rich, in line with the income-dependent altruism model (Dimick et al. 2016). Our results imply that insufficient policy responses to rising inequality may be less about absent demand but more about a failure to turn demand into policy, and that scholars should devote more attention to the latter.

Income Inequality and Populist Attitudes: Evidence from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems V

Nils D. Steiner

Abstract: Economic inequality figures prominently among the factors that have been discussed as drivers of the success of populist parties. One plausible underlying mechanism is that economic inequality increases populist sentiment among voters which in turn leads to higher support for populist parties. Yet, we lack evidence on whether populist attitudes are more widespread where economic inequality is higher. In this study, I use data on 40 elections from the 5th Module of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES)—the first large cross-national survey dataset containing a measure of populist attitudes—to contribute such evidence. The analysis uncovers a substantively strong and robust positive cross-country correlation between income inequality and populist attitudes. Yet contrary to expectations, economic inequality does not make a larger difference for populist attitudes among those with lower socio-economic status. These findings add to evidence pointing to a connection between inequality and populism—but suggest that higher inequality contexts provide conditions conducive to populist sentiment among broad segments of the population.