Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Political Sociology and Social Policy

Ongoing Projects


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

Andreas Schäfer



Interaction in Civil Society: Subjects of Cohesion

Hanna Schwander (with Christian von Scheve, Monika Schwarz-Friesel, Ursula Hess, Barbara Pfetsch, Jule Specht, Thorsten Faas, Denis Gestorf, Simon Koschut, Jan Slaby, Swen Hutter und Verena Hafner)

The Berlin University Alliance Exploration Project consists of four key research units that focus on the mapping and monitoring of civil society, its discourses, constituent individuals, and mundane social encounters. I am particularly engaged in the last research unit where we aim to understand how situated encounters,  promote or disrupt behavioral dimensions of social cohesion. We ask for instance how do civil society initiatives such as the climate or fair housing movements promote or disrupt cohesion at the level of individuals and their situated encounters. Although a collective property, cohesion is firmly rooted in these micro-social relations, in dyads (couples, friends, acquaintances, etc.) as well as in small-groups, like families, work teams, or close-knit on- and offline communities.
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Green parties and their supporters: Cucumbers or Watermelons?

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

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

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. 


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.