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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

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Cross-national multi-purpose survey data as a resource for political research 2

Session Organisers Dr Riccardo Ladini (University of Milan)
Miss Jessica Rosco (University of Milan)
Professor Cristiano Vezzoni (University of Milan)
TimeTuesday 18 July, 16:00 - 17:00
Room U6-23

The panel invites papers that illustrate the potential of large cross-national multi-purpose surveys not specifically focused on political issues to study electoral and political behaviour and politics at large, both focusing on specific countries or comparative approaches.
Some examples of multi-purpose survey programs are: ESS, EVS/WVS, ISSP, and various continental barometers.
Nowadays, social research broadly relies on data coming from these surveys, which are increasingly recognised as the infrastructure of the social sciences. Their success rests on the high quality of data, cross-national coverage, longitudinal depth, complete documentation and, last but not the least, availability.
Despite their merits and popularity, cross-national survey data are still under-used to study political attitudes and behaviour. Possibly political scientists’ cold feet toward cross-national surveys comes from their inherently multi-purpose nature, with a limited number of questions explicitly referring to political orientation and behaviour. To complicate the situation, each round of a survey happens at once in several countries, crosscutting each national electoral cycle at a different point.
A closer look, however, suggests that cross-national survey data can offer great opportunities also for the study of politics. Practically each survey programme includes basic political questions (previous vote, party identity, self-placement on the left-right scale) together with an abundant set of questions referring to value orientation and socio-political attitudes. In addition, the synchronic data collection in several countries and repetition across time give a vantage point to study cross-cultural equivalence of measures and contextual effects, by means of multi-groups and multilevel designs.
Thus, the aim of the panel is to collect contributions that present original and creative ways for political researchers to exploit cross-national survey data, enhancing their use by proposing solutions to the methodological and conceptual problems encountered while


Consequences of Regional Electoral Success of Right-Wing Populist Parties for Immigrants’ Political Trust

Mr Paul Vierus (University Duisburg-Essen) - Presenting Author

Previous research shows that first-generation immigrants trust political institutions more than natives, but that this surplus becomes smaller with longer staying in the receiving societies and for the second generation. Drawing on research on the so-called integration paradox suggests that over time immigrants adapt their expectations to the host society. What remains largely unaddressed is that immigrants’ trust varies substantially across immigrant-receiving countries, which points to the role of differences in institutions and political representation. This study examines how national and regional institutional quality, as well as right-wing populist party success, influences immigrants’ political trust. Empirical results from multilevel models with macro-unit and time fixed effects using survey data from the European Social Survey (2008-2018) combined with regional and national data shows that increases in regional populist radical right party success relate to decreasing trust levels of immigrants, particularly for first-generation immigrants. Further analyses tracking potential mechanisms find that this relationship is largely due to increases in perceived discrimination and lack of political representation.

The Impact of Hate Speech in Search Engines on Political Attitudes – Evidence from an Online Experiment

Dr Franziska Pradel (Technical University of Munich) - Presenting Author

Based on an online experiment, I assess the effects of hate speech compared to positive and neutral speech about refugees in search engines on trust and policy preferences. The experiment varies both the tone of the suggestions (control, positive, neutral, negative) and the source of the suggestions (search engine and politician). The study provides insights into the polarizing potential of hate speech among individuals self-identifying at the left and right margins of the political spectrum. It is striking that there are fundamentally different effects of positively biased information, in which persons with such group identities are much closer in their attitudes than persons exposed to other refugee-related information. Furthermore, the study analyzes how the trust in the source and its content are affected by inherent political biases. Search engines are perceived as politicized when they are politically biased, and the general trust in the source and its content erodes and is similar to the level of a typical politicized source (i.e., a politician). The study proposes as a major explanation for these different effects that individuals having more extreme right political ideologies rather tend to adopt the underlying attitudes of the political bias, while they seem to lead to reactance (backfire/boomerang effect) and devaluation of the source for those having rather more extreme left political ideologies. These findings are particularly alarming because the study shows that people with a right-wing political ideology are almost three times more likely to click on hate speech suggestions than those with a left-wing political ideology. Thus, especially strong political group identity plays a crucial role in how politically biased information influences political attitudes and how individuals engage with it online.

Populist attitudes and support for lockdown measures: a comparative study of 25 European countries.

Mr Francesco Marolla (University of Trento ) - Presenting Author

Several studies have pointed out that populist parties have raised considerable criticism towards scientific positions on the COVID-19 pandemic and governments’ emergency measures to contain it. Previous findings have shown that populist attitudes are connected to the spread of conspiracy theories beliefs related to the pandemic. However, prior public opinion research efforts remain confined to specific countries. More comparative evidence is needed to understand how populist beliefs have affected citizens’ responses to governments’ lockdown measures. A comparative approach would allow political research to consider contextual diversity in terms of COVID-19 societal impact and political responses of governments.
This paper will use the recent ESS wave (10th round), with modules on ’Understanding of Democracy’ and ’Impact of COVID-19’, to study the effect of populist attitudes on citizens’ support for lockdown measures. Specifically, it aims at providing three main contributions to political research on populism and public opinion research on COVID-19. Firstly, it makes use of the new ESS round data to propose a comparative way to measure populist attitudes. Second, employing multilevel modelling, it aims at examining cross-national differences due to COVID-19 impact on healthcare systems and socioeconomic conditions. Third, using self-reported measures, it explores whether the experience of COVID-19 impacts on individuals’ health and/or socioeconomic status plays a role in moderating the effects of populist attitudes.
This paper predicts that European citizens holding populist beliefs have been less supportive of restrictive measures. Moreover, it expects that criticism towards such measures to be higher where the societal impact of the pandemic has been harder. Finally, it anticipates that COVID impact on individuals triggers populist attitudes towards more critical positions towards lockdown measures. This paper will contribute to the understanding of how populist political orientation can affect citizens’ response to governments’ emergency measures.

The formation of political trust among immigrants in Europe: an analysis on the ESS data

Professor Mario Quaranta (Università di Trento) - Presenting Author

Several studies have investigated the formation of social trust among immigrant populations, while little is known about another form of trust, i.e. political, among them. Being part of the general concept of political support, that comprises attitudes towards the institutions and the actors of a political system, political trust is considered a sign of a healthy democracy. Indeed, the political trust of immigrants should be an important aspect of the integration process as it may reveal positive attitudes towards the host country. In line with the recent trends in the literature, this paper aims at investigating political trust as an attitude reflecting an evaluation of political institutions and actors addressing two research questions. First, how do immigrants evaluate the institutions and the actors of the political system they live in compared to natives? Second, how does such an evaluation vary across Europe? This article theorizes that immigrants evaluate more positively institutions and actors than natives, in particular when they come from a country with a comparatively lower democratic performance. The article argues that moving from a worse-performing democracy to a better-performing democracy works as a heuristic to form their opinion about the political institutions and actors of the country of destination. The research questions will be addressed applying hierarchical models on multiple rounds of the European Social Survey. This is a survey largely used to study political attitudes, and it has the merit of including information about the country of origin of the immigrant is collected, along with the year of arrival (for some rounds only).