Thad Dunning, Professor

Closed (1) Democracy in the era of political disillusionment: is moderation ever strategic for outsiders?

Applications for Spring 2019 are now closed for this project.

Outsider candidates have been present in politics around the globe for decades. The most well-known outsider candidates who have won office share a populist style and have adopted extreme positions on policy issues, both on the right and on the left of the political spectrum (e.g., Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Alberto Fujimori in Peru, among others, including Donald Trump in the U.S.). This empirical observation has, in turn, led the literature on outsider candidates to focus almost exclusively on describing and studying the consequences of anti-establishment/extremist candidates (e.g., Levitsky et al. 2016; Carreras 2012; Serra 2018). However, these studies have overlooked important variation between outsider candidates. Notably, the last presidential elections in France, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, among other countries, all included moderate candidates running for office, who did not campaign on a populist style nor on extremist positions. This project seeks to fill in this gap by studying the strategic decisions adopted by candidates running as independents or with newly created parties (i.e., new entrants) in terms of where to locate along the policy dimension and which type of rhetoric to employ when appealing to voters.

URAP students will be asked to take part in one or more of the following four different parts of the project. First, they will help constructing an exhaustive database with a set of variables describing the profiles and contexts in which candidates running as independents or with newly created parties (i.e., new entrants) have risen around the world. Second, students will be asked to help collecting and processing electoral and census data in Brazil, which will be used to test the effect of compulsory voting on new entrants’ prospects of winning office. Third, students will help constructing a final database that will include data on the universe of independent candidates running for mayoral office in Italy since 1990. Finally, in the fourth part of the project students will be asked to collect and translate public speeches by new entrants, and to analyze them using topic modelling among other natural language procedures for text analysis. These four parts of the project will provide students with an overview of the different stages involved in quantitative research designs: e.g., definition of coding procedures, data collection, data cleaning, text and data analysis, among others.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Natalia Garbiras Diaz, Graduate Student

Qualifications: Given the tasks involved in all four parts of the project, students who are interested in applying should have some prior experience and familiarity in data-driven research. Some knowledge in statistical packages (either R or Stata), text analysis and machine learning is preferred but not required. Language skills: (any level of) Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian is also a plus.

Weekly Hours: 6-8 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: Tasks can be done remotely (everything can be found online) but students are expected to attend in person meetings that will take place every other week.

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