Current Projects

Support for Right-wing Populism in Comparative Perspective

Funded by the Hellman Fellows Program, this project seeks to disentangle how much the popular appeal of right-wing populist leaders is attributable to their attack on the current political institutions and their anti-elitist and anti-establishment positions as opposed to their right, often far-right, conservative, and otherizing ideology. The project involves large-scale survey experiments conducted in different nations. One of the goals is to investigate if the electoral support for anti-establishment positions, and the danger it represents to liberal democratic institutions, can change as a function of the context, party system, and political or economic crises.

Modeling Latent Effect Heterogeneity

This project seeks to develop semi-parametric Bayesian regression models to estimate latent heterogeneity in the effect of treatment variables and/or observed covariates. In generalized linear models, omitting interactions can lead to latent occurrences of Simpson’s Paradox, which is a long-standing problem in statistical analysis in general and in the social sciences in particular. Simpson’s paradox refers to the possibility that an effect found when data are aggregated is entirely different or even reversed when data are separated and analyzed in groups. If these groups are latent, classical empirical approaches (GLM, mixed models, etc.) are not able to detect and deal with them, meaning that Simpson’s Paradox goes unnoticed by the researcher. In practice, it means that a researcher can conclude that an effect is positive when, in fact, it might be positive only for a subgroup of the population but negative for other subgroups. I have used these models to study the latent structure of attitudes toward welfare policies, minority groups, and support for populism in the USA and OECD countries. I show that there is a hidden polarization among the observed socioeconomic groups in some countries but not others.

Perceptions, Political Behavior, Polarization, and Welfare Attitudes (with Rob Franzese)

This project examines how socioeconomic positions of the individuals impact their perceptions about the mechanisms of reproduction of social inequalities, and how those perceptions affect their political behaviour. It seeks to understand how socioeconomic position dependent perceptions about the socioeconomic environment make some individuals but not others more susceptible to certain populist ‘otherizing’ appeals.

Information, Income Distribution, and Policy Preferences

Using nation-wide surveys and surveys experiments, this project investigates how different social groups process information about inequality and income distribution, how information affect their perceptions, and how those perceptions affect policy preferences. Classical theories about public preferences for the allocation of political authority in multilevel polities emphasize the role of economic conditions, identity, and nationalist/regionalist values. In developed nations, immigration has played a significant role in public attitudes about supra-national integration. This project seeks to understand how information about inequality and income distribution affect political attitudes about welfare policies and political integration. How do different social groups process information about inequality? How does that information change their perception about their social and political environment?

As part of this project, two nation-wide surveys and one survey experiment have already been conducted in Brazil in collaboration with Profa. Marta Arretche, Prof. Rogerio Schlegel, and the Center for Metropolitan Studies (CEM).

Support for Right-wing Populism in Comparative Perspective Populism has become a central piece of the political landscape in recent years. It has drawn the attention of scholars, pundits, and the news media alike. So much so that “populism” was declared the Word of the Year in 2017 by the Cambridge Dictionary. The increasing electoral support of populist leaders disquieted scholars and political specialists due to the threat it represents to democracy.