Publications

Conditionally accepted upon replication. “The Electoral Cycle Effect in Parliamentary Democracies.” Political Science Research and Methods (with Tom Louwerse).


Does government party support decline in a monotonic fashion throughout the legislative cycle or do we observe a u-shaped ‘electoral cycle effect’? Moving beyond the study of midterm election results, this is the first study to assess the cyclical pulse of government party support in parliamentary democracies based on over 25,000 voting intention polls from 171 cycles in 22 countries. On average, government parties lose support during the first half of the electoral cycle, but at most partially recover from their initial losses. Under single-party government and when prime ministers control cabinet dissolution, support tends to follow the previously assumed u-shaped pattern more strongly. Finally, we find that government parties hardly recover from early losses since the 2000s.

Forthcoming. “Do Voters Really Prefer More Choice? Determinants of Support for Personalised Electoral Systems.” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (with Michael Jankowski).


Which voters prefer having more choice between parties and candidates in an election? To provide an answer to this question, we analyse the case of a radical change from a closed-list PR system to a highly complex open-list PR system with cumulative voting in the German states of Bremen and Hamburg. We argue that the approval of a personalised electoral system is structured in similar ways as support for direct democracy. Using representative surveys conducted prior to all four state elections under cumulative voting in 2011 and 2015, we analyse which individual factors determine the approval, disapproval or indifference towards the new electoral law. The results indicate that younger voters as well as supporters of left parties are much more likely to support a personalised electoral system. In contrast to previous studies, political interest only has an impact on the indifference towards the electoral system. More generally, our results show that a large proportion of voters does not appreciate personalised preferential electoral systems which seems to be a result of the complexity and magnitude of choice between parties and candidates.

2018. “Voter Preferences and Party Loyalty under Cumulative Voting: Political Behaviour after Electoral Reform in Bremen and Hamburg.” Electoral Studies 51: 93–102 (with Shaun Bowler and Gail McElroy).


Many electoral systems constrain voters to one or two votes at election time. Reformers often see this as a failing because voters’ preferences are both broader and more varied than the number of choices allowed. New electoral systems therefore often permit more preferences to be expressed. In this paper we examine what happens when cumulative voting is introduced in two German states. Even when we allow for tactical considerations, we find that the principle of unconstrained choice is not widely embraced by voters, although in practice, too, many seem to have preferences for more than just one party. This finding has implications for arguments relating to electoral reform as well as how to conceive of party affiliations in multi-party systems.

Current Research

“Campaigns and the Selection of Policy-seeking Representatives” (with Shaun Bowler and Gail McElroy) [under review].


Politicians are often seen to combine the different goals of office-seeking, policy-seeking and vote-seeking (Müller and Strøm 1999). It can be hard for analysts to disentangle these sometimes competing, sometimes reinforcing, goals. Campaigns – and campaigning – are means by which candidates can, in principle, signal their motivations to voters. A candidate’s behaviour on the campaign trail should, then, be informative about their behaviour as a legislature and in particular, whether that candidate is policy-seeking or not. Using evidence from the European Parliament we show that campaign activity prior to the election does not indicate policy-seeking behaviour in the legislature post-election. The finding also holds in two national-level settings and across a variety of measures of legislative effort. These results suggests that campaigns may not always be good mechanisms for helping to select policy-seeking representatives.

quanteda: An R Package for the Quantitative Analysis of Textual Data.” (with Kenneth Benoit, Kohei Watanabe, Haiyan Wang, Paul Nulty, Adam Obeng, and Akitaka Matsuo) [under review].


quanteda is an R package providing a comprehensive workflow and toolkit for natural language processing tasks such as corpus management, tokenization, analysis, and visualization. It has extensive functions for applying dictionary analysis, exploring texts using keywords-in-context, computing document and feature similarities, and discovering multi-word expressions through collocation scoring. Based on entirely sparse operations, it provides highly effcient methods for compiling document-feature matrices and for manipulating these or using them in further quantitative analysis. Using C++ and multi-threading extensively, quanteda is also considerably faster and more effcient than other R and Python packages in processing large textual data.

“Prospective and Retrospective Rhetoric: A New Dimension of Party Competition and Campaign Strategies”. (Winner of the 2018 Manifesto Corpus Conference Best Paper Award)


Under what circumstances do political parties focus on intended future actions in campaign messages, and when do parties praise or criticize the past and the current situation? To measure the extent of ‘retrospective’ and ‘prospective’ campaign rhetoric, a comprehensively validated probabilistic classifier codes the temporal dimension of over 390,000 sentences from 576 manifestos in nine democracies. With a range between 19 and 92 per cent, on average around half of the sentences in party platforms contain a reference to the future. Ideologically extreme parties tend to put less emphasis on describing future actions than mainstream parties. Opposition parties, irrespective of ideology, frame the past and present much more negatively. However, almost all parties describe the future in a positive way. The similarities in prospective sections and differences in retrospective manifesto parts between government and opposition parties have important implications for theories of promissory representation, credit claiming, and responsibility attribution.

“Reassessing an Established Concept Through Crowd-Sourced Text Coding”.


A growing body of research analyses whether crowd-workers can reproduce the ‘gold standard’ of expert-generated data. Based on the case of election pledges, I show how crowd-coding can also test for differences in perceptions of a concept between groups of experts and instructed non-experts. The comparison of the most extensive reliability exercise among nine leading pledge researchers to over 1,900 codings generated by 60 crowd workers reveals considerable disagreement within and between both groups. Moreover, the carefully instructed and continuously monitored non-experts have a much broader understanding of election promises, which has serious consequences for analyzing pledge fulfillment. The approach illustrates that crowd-coding could be used across all subfields of political science to reassess the measurement validity of a concept.

“Media Coverage of Fulfilled, Broken, and Ongoing Election Promises Throughout the Electoral Cycle”.


A growing body of work shows that governments fulfil a majority of their campaign promises made in party manifestos. However, cross-national surveys reaffirm that only a minority of voters believes that politicians try to keep their election pledges. This difference between public scepticism and scholarly findings could be driven by media coverage of election promises, since most voters do not know specific contents of manifestos. Analysing over 400,000 sentences relating to election promises from newspapers in four developed democracies across 38 electoral cycles reveals that media cover election promises throughout the entire cycle with peaks during election campaigns. Ongoing pledges without any information on the breaking or fulfilment constitute the largest part of coverage. Moreover, broken promises are covered more often than fulfilled pledges. These findings have important implications for studying pledge fulfilment and the linkage between voters and parties.

“Challenger Quality as a Moderator of the Incumbency Advantage in Personalized PR Systems” (with Michael Jankowski).


We address the question of how the quality of list competitors affects the incumbency advantage in PR systems. We argue that incumbents are less likely to benefit from holding office when list competitors are well-known and of high quality. To test this mechanism, we exploit the special ‘dual mandate’ characteristic of Irish local elections in which – until 1999 – members of the national parliament (TDs) were allowed to be represented in local and national parliaments simultaneously. By applying the regression discontinuity design to Irish local elections since 1942, we demonstrate that marginally elected politicians have an ‘incumbency disadvantage’ if a TD runs in the same constituency. The results show how challenger quality moderates the frequently observed incumbency advantage.

“Expectation of Coalition Formation in Multi-Party Settings: When Do Voters Get It Right?” (with Shaun Bowler and Gail McElroy).

“Who’s Willing to Compromise? Investigating Party Rhetoric on Compromise and Voters’ Response” (with Carolina Plescia and Mariken van der Velden).

If you would like to get access to the latest version of a paper, feel free to send me an e-mail.

Teaching

Teaching Assistant at Trinity College Dublin

Undergraduate Level

Postgraduate Level

Course Instructor

Awards and Qualifications

Text Analysis

I am a co-author of quanteda, an R package for managing and analysing text, and a member of the Quanteda Initiative, a non-profit organisation founded by Kenneth Benoit to provide ongoing support for the “quanteda ecosystem” of open-source text analysis software.

Tutorials and Vignettes

Below are tutorials, cheatsheets, and vignettes I have written with other members of the quanteda team to make quantitative text analysis in R more accessible to users.

Introduction to Text Analysis

  • Quanteda tutorials: a website with a step-by-step introduction to quantitative text analysis using quanteda designed for workshops on text analysis

Cheat Sheet and Vignettes

Replications

Curriculum Vitae

Extensive CV (PDF)

Education

2015– PhD Candidate
Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science
2017–2018 Postgraduate Certificate in Statistics
Trinity College Dublin, School of Computer Science and Statistics
2014–2015 M.Sc. in Politics and Public Policy
Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science
2011–2014 B.A. in Politics and Sociology
University of Bonn, Department of Political Science and Sociology

Work Experience

2015– Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant
Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science
2014 Intern in Research Division “EU External Relations”
German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)
2013–2014 Student assistant
Bonn Academy for Research and Teaching of Applied Politics
2012–2014 Student assistant
University of Bonn, Institute of Political Science and Sociology

Fellowships and Grants

2017–2018 TRiSS Postgraduate Research Fellowship,
Trinity Research in Social Science (TRiSS)
2016–2019 Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship,
Irish Research Council
2015–2016 Postgraduate Ussher Fellowship,
Trinity College Dublin
2011–2015 Undergraduate and Graduate Fellowship,
German Academic Scholarship Foundation
(Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes)

Professional Memberships

Software

R Packages

  • quanteda: Quantitative analysis of textual data (co-author)
  • quanteda.dictionaries: Dictionaries for text analysis and associated functions (co-author)
  • readtext: Import and plain and formatted text files (contributor)

Contact

  • mullers@tcd.ie
  • Trinity Research in Social Science, Room 6001, Arts Building, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland