Research area Direct Democracy and Political Participation

This assistant professorship is held by Prof. Dr. Tarik Abou-Chadi at the Zentrum für Demokratie Aarau (ZDA).

The research of this group focuses on questions of political competition and the interplay of political institutions and political behavior. The central motivation is to understand mass-elite policy linkages within varying forms of democracies. Democracy from this perspective can be regarded as a specific set of institutions that translates citizens’ demands into public policies. A core question within this research is then to understand how and when political actors such as governments or political parties are responsive to the preferences of the public. Crucially, democracy does not simply function as a bottom-up process but political actors strategically interact and try to shape preferences, attention, and frames or try to alter the rules altogether.

Our research specifically focuses on the transformations of democratic societies and how they shape the behavior of political actors such as voters, parties, or governments. Social, political and economic changes lead to shifts in the demands of citizens and thus create strategic risks and opportunities for political parties. New issues such as immigration, the environment, LGBTI rights or new social risks have entered the political arena of post-industrial societies and it is a crucial question for political science to understand how and why this has happened but likewise to analyze how this will affect existing constellations of political competition as well as democratic institutions themselves.

The research of this unit is decidedly empirical and comparative in nature.

Typical research and teaching topics at this group are thus:

  • Applied theories of voting
  • Elections and party competition in democracies
  • Causes and consequences of radical right party success
  • The transformation of social democracy
  • The role of social media for political behavior
  • Populist parties