Social media have undoubtedly been a game changer in communication. Especially, political actors have gained power, because they can communicate with the public without the filtering influence of media agencies.
This also has a potential effect on the competition between small and large political actors such as parties and CSOs.
My research in this field focusses on measuring the agenda setting-capabilities of political actors and organizations through social media. I developed an index (ASI) to estimate and compare the potential of actors' agenda setting-ambitions.
Currently, I am working on a comparison of political parties during and after elections. Therefore, I collected Twitter data from different parties in European countries where elections were held in 2017. For the German case, I presented first results at the EUSN17.
I am also interested in the comparative analysis of patries' websites. What do parties use their websites for? - Distribution of information, building their network, landing page with links to social media profiles, digital headquaters for digital activists? Are there country-specific differences? How do parties' websites develop over time?
My main research interest concerns political parties and civil society organizations. Both structure society and promote participation. While many scholars dedicated their work to the research of political parties, CSOs have barely been systematically explored so far.
Political parties have their roots in civil society. However, they have moved closer to the state. This phenomenon is connected to the research on party change and linkage failure. Citizens are frustrated with political parties and have been labeled “disenchanted”, “apathetic” or “critical” in the scholarly debate. It was suggested that they turn away from politics. However, this does not seem to reflect the whole truth.
We know that society changes. Political parties were the answer to the demands of an empowered civil society in the industrial age. Today, we live in the information age. Political parties have to adapt to the changing circumstances and find answers to this new type of society. A look at CSOs shows that many citizens want to get involved. Yet, their mode of engagement has changed. They participate more spontaneously and do not want to commit themselves for a permanent activity.
Therefore, my research focusses on the comparison of political parties and CSOs and the lessons they might learn from each other.
I have been accompanied by election research since my studies in Würzburg. I was involved in the Würzburg-Barometer, a mixed-mode survey that targeted the population of Würzburg in terms of their voting behavior and their attitudes towards different topics such as social and institutional trust and religious belief. Later, this study branched out into the Bayernbarometer with a focus on Bavarias population. I was part of a team of four students and one academic supervisor that coordinated the survey. Ever since, I have had a strong interest in survey methodology.
Together with Sabrina J. Mayer I am currently working on a project where we focus on the content of party identification. We rely on social identity theory and interviewed adherents of political parties to find the common denominator of their identification.