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Department of Political and Social Sciences

SPS theses of the month: September

The EUI Department of Political and Social Sciences is delighted to announce that during the month of September eight PhD researchers have successfully defended their dissertation.

12 October 2023 | Research


Congratulations to Joe Kendall, Jonne Kamphorst, Alexander Davenport, Mariana Carmo Duarte, Rebecca Kittel, Claudia Brunori, Dani Sandu, and Giuseppe Ciccolini from the EUI Department of Political and Social Sciences, for receiving their doctorates in September 2023, after unanimous decisions from the Jury.

Mariana Carmo Duarte investigates the moderating role of EU politicisation on public opinion formation regarding the EU. She probes the micro mechanisms of how parties shape public opinion by separately investigating the moderating impact of party politicisation on the relationship between individual attitudes and support for EU integration, on the impact of party framing of EU issues, and on the impact of party cues. Mariana concludes on a positive note, arguing that the political salience of EU issues should be viewed as a positive contribution to democratic debate, as precisely by providing voters with more information about all sides of an issue, these arguments and deliberations encourage voters to think through the issues themselves in place of relying on heuristics and partisan loyalties.

Read Mariana Carmo Duarte's thesis in Cadmus.

Alexander Davenport defended his thesis which offers an explanation for the puzzling lack of votes for liberal parties given their monopoly on culturally progressive and economically conservative views -- views that they share with a large portion of the electorate. The external members of the committee -- Jan Rovny and Markus Wagner -- complimented Alexander on identifying such a compelling puzzle and arguing so effectively how the literature does not provide a straight-forward explanation. Alexander was pressed on a number of theoretical and empirical issues to which he responded eloquently and convincingly.

Read Alexander Davenport's thesis in Cadmus.

Rebecca Kittel examines the role of simple language in explaining the increasing success of populist electoral appeals and the possible consequences for the quality of democracy. Rebecca concludes that simple language is by no means the source of populist success, and that indeed low-level language is not appreciated per se by potential voters. Although she demonstrates that populists are not 'dumbing down' democratic debates, she uncovers a very troubling phenomenon in her experimental research: messages that attribute blame for economic problems to politicians do not solely appeal to populist adherents but are indeed highly appealing to individuals belonging to all socio-economic strata and partisan affiliations. Hopefully this finding can serve as a wake-up call and not as a harbinger of worse to come.

Read Rebecca Kittel's thesis in Cadmus.

Jonne Kamphorst's ground-breaking thesis unveils a dynamic fusion of rigorous analytical thinking and inventive research strategies. Delving into the realm of party competition, Jonne explores how parties can fine-tune their electoral strategies based on which issues are salient and how popular parties' stances on these issues are. Jonne shows under what conditions ambiguity can be an electorally beneficial strategy and under what conditions such strategy can be electorally harmful. He then goes on to examine the type of messaging that best mobilises not only electoral support bur also higher levels of commitment among party activists.

Read Jonne Kamphorst's thesis in Cadmus.

Joe Kendall's thesis is an inquiry on the long-term legacy of the British empire. Through three eclectic chapters, Joe shows that: a) slave-ownership has left a lasting shadow on the Westminster; b) family links with slave ownership among English citizens can shape their attitudes towards BLM policies; and c) looking into the British empire in conjunction with other colonial powers can also influence attitudes towards other outgroups, according to whether such comparisons are upstream or downstream. Joe has combined unique data with innovative experimental designs to inform a nascent field on the dynamics of memory politics.

Read Joe Kendall's thesis in Cadmus.

Dani Sandu explores a very interesting question: how do different regimes vary in the way they narrate their common history? Looking into the comparison between East and West Germany, Dani asks how the same nation tells the story of 1900-1945 across the two different regimes. By attempting a theoretically compelling classification of different dimensions of indoctrination, Dani looks into post-war school textbooks to show how political indoctrination plays out in the way history is being narrated and reproduced through schooling.

Read Dani Sandu's thesis in Cadmus.

In her dissertation, Claudia Brunori observes that many immigrants face challenges integrating to their host societies, facing discrimination, unemployment, and low incomes, and asks how they fare in terms of mental health. In her innovative dissertation, Claudia addressed this important question using unique quantitative data from the United Kingdom and France. Several earlier studies have identified an immigrant mental health paradox, in which migrants have better mental health than natives upon arrival but a faster deterioration of mental health over time. Claudia's new findings questioned this paradox by showing that immigrants' mental health does not deteriorate faster over time compared to natives. Indeed, immigrants from later birth cohorts show stronger resilience against mental health deterioration over the life course, pointing to new questions of immigrant mental health resilience. Claudia's further analyses show that most immigrants who migrated as minors were separated from their parents at some point of the migration process. Yet having been "left behind" has a negative effect only on women who were separated from both parents. On the other hand, parents who have children left behind in their origin countries show poorer mental health than those who migrated with their children and indeed, those who were later united with their children. Claudia's dissertation provides important new perspectives on the mental health of Europe's growing immigrant population and the social forces shaping it.

Read Claudia Brunori's thesis in Cadmus.

Last but not least, Giuseppe Ciccolini inquires on how socioeconomic inequalities affect voting. Giuseppe's dissertation provides novel analyses of this classical question and focuses particularly on the role of socioeconomic inequality on support for the populist right. The literature on the rise of the populist right has been divided into views considering increasing inequality, globalisation, and other socioeconomic changes as the drivers, those that emphasize other, such as cultural, factors. Giuseppe's analyses strongly support the importance of socioeconomic factors, with an emphasis on deterioration in relative – rather than absolute – socioeconomic position as a driver of the populist right vote. The dissertation shows that voters from social classes that have experienced a decline in their relative (as compared to the richest and poorest in society) economic position are prone to support the populist right. Likewise, the populist right finds support from residents of tightly rooted communities in economic decline. However, his results give less support to hypotheses of the relationship between social mobility across generations and voting. Collectively, the results from Ciccolini's dissertation contribute to understanding how developments in socioeconomic inequality in the past decades have shaped our current voting landscape.

Read Giuseppe Ciccolini's thesis in Cadmus.

Last update: 12 October 2023

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