Peer-Reviewed Publications

Shaun Bowler, Gail McElroy, and Stefan Müller. Accepted for Publication. “Campaigns and the Selection of Policy-Seeking Representatives.” Legislative Studies Quarterly.

Can voters learn meaningful information about candidates from their electoral campaigns? As with job market hiring, voters, like employers, cannot know the productivity of candidates, especially challengers, when they elect them. The real productivity of representatives only reveals itself after the election. We explore if the information revealed during the “hiring process” is a good signal of the legislative effort of elected representatives. In the incomplete information environment of election campaigns, candidates should turn to credible signals to indicate their “type” to voters. Campaigns – and campaigning – are means by which candidates can, in principle, signal their motivations to voters. Is a candidate’s behavior on the campaign trail informative about their behavior and effort as a legislator? Does it, for example, reveal whether a candidate will be more hard working and legislatively active? Using evidence from the European Parliament we show that campaign activity prior to the election is not related to policy-seeking behavior in the legislature post-election. The finding also holds in two national-level settings and across a variety of measures of legislative effort. Those who campaign harder do seem more likely to win the election, but campaign effort seems to provide a poor guide to what the winner does once elected.

Stefan Müller and Tom Louwerse. Forthcoming. “The Electoral Cycle Effect in Parliamentary Democracies.” Political Science Research and Methods (online first).

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.

Stefan Müller and Michael Jankowski. 2019. “Do Voters Really Prefer More Choice? Determinants of Support for Personalised Electoral Systems.” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 29(2): 262–281.

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.

Kenneth Benoit, Kohei Watanabe, Haiyan Wang, Paul Nulty, Adam Obeng, Stefan Müller, and Akitaka Matsuo. 2018. “quanteda: An R Package for the Quantitative Analysis of Textual Data.” Journal of Open Source Software 3(30): 774.

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 entirely on sparse operations, it provides highly efficient 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 efficient than other R and Python packages in processing large textual data.

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

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.

Liam Kneafsey and Stefan Müller. 2018. “Assessing the Influence of Neutral Grounds on Match Outcomes.” International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport 18(6): 892–905.

The home advantage in various sports has been well documented. So far, we lack knowledge whether playing in neutral venues indeed removes many, if not all, theoretically assumed advantages of playing at home. Analysing over 3,500 senior men’s Gaelic football and hurling matches – field games with the highest participation rates in Ireland – between 2009 and 2018, we test the potential moderating influence of neutral venues. In hurling and Gaelic football, a considerable share of matches is played at neutral venues. We test the influence of neutral venues based on descriptive statistics, and multilevel logistic and multinomial regressions controlling for team strength, the importance of the match, the year, and the sport. With predicted probabilities ranging between 0.8 and 0.9, the favourite team is very likely to win home matches. The predicted probability drops below 0.6 for away matches. At neutral venues, the favourite team has a predicted probability of winning of 0.7. A Coarsened Exact Matching (CEM) approach also reveals very substantive and significant effects for the “treatment” of neutral venues. Overall, neutral venues appear to be an under-utilised option for creating fairer and less predictable competition, especially in single-game knockout matches.

Other Publications

Kohei Watanabe and Stefan Müller. 2019. Quanteda Tutorials.

Current Research

Papers Under Review

Media Coverage of Campaign Promises Throughout the Electoral Cycle [Revise and Resubmit].

A growing body of work concludes that governments fulfill a majority of their campaign pledges. However, only a minority of voters believes that politicians try to keep their promises, and many voters struggle to accurately recall the fulfillment or breaking of salient campaign pledges. I argue that this disparity between the public perception and empirical evidence is partially driven by the information voters receive in the media. I expect that only few statements on promises mention the fulfillment or breaking of a pledge, and that news outlets focus more on broken than on fulfilled promises. Additionally, I posit that partisan tabloids employ more positive sentiment in statements about promises when the endorsed party holds office. Based on a new text corpus of over 480,000 sentences on political promises published in 25 newspapers during 33 electoral cycles in Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, I find support for these expectations. Across the four countries, newspapers report between 1.5 and 2 times more on broken than on fulfilled promises. Moreover, newspapers tend to express more negative sentiment in statements on promises when the endorsed party is not in government. The results have important implications for studying negative information in mass media, election pledges, and the linkage between voters and parties.

Working Papers

Retrospective and Prospective Campaign Communication. (Winner of the 2018 Manifesto Corpus Conference Best Paper Award)

Citizens attribute credit and blame to political parties and politicians when casting their ballot. However, previous comparative research has not studied how parties react to retrospective voting behavior by strategically referring to the past and present. Leveraging human coding with supervised machine learning, I uncover retrospective and prospective rhetoric in 568 party manifestos, published before 142 elections in nine countries between 1953 and 2017. Parties devote, on average, around half of their manifestos to descriptions of the past and present. Ideologically extreme parties employ substantively more retrospective rhetoric than moderate parties. Conducting separate analyses for retrospective and prospective statements, I refine two recently published studies. Incumbents and opposition parties only differ with regard to sentiment and concreteness in retrospective statements, which highlights the importance of temporal rhetoric when drawing conclusions about non-positional campaign communication. The results contribute to our understanding of representation, party competition, 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. Comparing the most extensive reliability exercise carried out by nine pledge scholars to 3,660 codings generated by 90 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 important implications for analysing pledge fulfilment. The approach illustrates that crowd-coding could be used across all subfields of political science to reassess the measurement validity of a concept.

Scalable Analysis of Political Text Using Machine Learning (with Kenneth Benoit, Patrick Chester, and Michael Laver).

Estimating policy positions from political text is a core element in many empirical analyses of political competition. This has traditionally been achieved using classical content analysis, which requires (costly) human experts to read and make judgements about all text in some corpus. Benoit et al. (2016) showed that crowd workers can label political texts as effectively as experts, but much faster and more cheaply. However, crowdsourced text analysis still requires judgements about every sentence in every text by multiple crowd workers, limiting its scalability to large text corpora. Unsupervised machine learning requires human “curation” of texts based on policy content, to allow ex-post human interpretation of results. Supervised machine learning methods, in contrast, leverage a relatively small training set of text labelled by humans, whether experts or crowd workers, to analyze a potentially huge volume of text out of sample, making this a much more scalable research tool. In this paper, we evaluate the effectiveness of different supervised machine learning algorithms using training sets labelled by humans, whether experts or crowd workers, to analyze both party manifestos and legislative speeches. We first replicate a widely used left-right scale derived from classical text analysis by human experts. We then exploit the flexibility crowd sourced labels to estimate “new” policy dimensions. Our results are encouraging, suggesting that supervised machine learning based on limited training data is a viable, fast, cheap and scalable method for analyzing large political text corpora out of sample.

Coalition Formation Expectations (with Shaun Bowler and Gail McElroy).

In coalition settings, when voters cast a ballot do they have a sense of who will form the government? The answer to this question is of relevance to questions of accountability; voters may well vote against a particular incumbent government but presumably would like some sense of what alternative will replace it. The answer to this question is also relevant to the literature on strategic voting in multi party systems. Do voters’ expectations influence their vote choice? To date, the studies which explore this question of voter anticipation largely compare across national contexts and thus contain a great deal of institutional and cultural variation which muddies the focus on expectations. For this reason, we use pre-election surveys from 19 German state elections between 2009 and 2017, in addition to three federal elections, to explore how voters form expectations in multi-party settings. We observe large variation in the ability of voters to predict actual government formation, ranging from 10 to 75 per cent. Both on the national and the subnational level we find robust evidence for ‘wishful thinking’ when predicting a government. We also find that public opinion polls heavily influence voter expectations about government formation. Our results have implications for the role of strategic voting in multiparty settings and, also, for an understanding of the ‘simple act of voting’ in complex settings.

Challenger Quality as a Moderator of the Incumbency Advantage: Evidence From a Natural Experiment in the Republic of Ireland from 1942 to 2014 (with Michael Jankowski).

This paper provides a two-fold contribution to the literature on the incumbency advantage in proportional representation systems. Specifically, we focus on the case of local elections in Ireland in the time period from 1942 to 2014. In doing so, we can address two research questions. Firstly, existing studies have found rather mixed findings regarding the existence of an incumbency advantage in local elections. Second, we exploit the special `dual mandate’ characteristic of Irish local elections. Until 1999, members of the national parliament were allowed to be represented in local and national parliaments simultaneously. This allows us to analyze how the presence of a high-quality list competitor influences the magnitude of the incumbency advantage. By applying the Regression Discontinuity Design, we find that the size of the incumbency bonus on the local level is very similar to Irish national elections. We further demonstrate that this advantage is significantly weaker under the presence of a high-quality list competitor, and that the strength of the incumbency increased after the dual mandate was abolished. The results suggest that future research on incumbency effects under proportional representation should pay more attention to the quality of challengers who are not among the close winners and losers.

Ongoing Research

Identifying and Explaining Nostalgia in Parties’ Campaign Communication (with Sven-Oliver Proksch).

Does Issue Emphasis in Election Campaigns Correspond to Politicians’ Legislative Behaviour? (with Naofumi Fujimura and Daisuke Hakiai).

Right-Wing Populism and Social Media in Direct Democratic Campaigns (with Fabrizio Gilardi, Clau Dermont, and Theresa Gessler).

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

Text Analysis

Quanteda Initiative

I work as the Documentation Manager and Training Advisor of the Quanteda Initiative (QI), a UK non-profit organisation devoted to the promotion of open-source text analysis software, and co-author of the following R packages:

  • quanteda: Quantitative analysis of textual data (co-author)

  • readtext: Import of plain and formatted text files (co-author)

  • newsmap: Semi-supervised model for geographical document classification (co-author)

  • quanteda.dictionaries: Dictionaries for text analysis and associated functions (co-author)

  • quanteda.classifiers: Models for supervised text classification (co-author)

Teaching Materials for Text Analysis

Below you can find tutorials, cheatsheets, and vignettes I have authored as a member of the Quanteda Initiative.

Introduction to Quantitative 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


Zurich Text as Data

I am the co-founder of Zurich Text as Data, a group devoted to collaborations and cross-disciplinary exchanges between researchers working on quantitative text analysis.

The inaugural workshop of Zurich Text as Data takes place on 24–25 October 2019 and is open to scholars in political science, economics, sociology, communication studies, legal studies, data science, and related fields. Papers or extended abstracts can be submitted here (deadline: 15 August 2019).


Course Instructor at the University of Zurich

Undergraduate Level

Postgraduate Level

Teaching Assistant at Trinity College Dublin

Undergraduate Level

Postgraduate Level

Workshop Instructor

Awards and Qualifications

Curriculum Vitae

Extensive CV (PDF)

Academic Positions

01.2019– Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Zurich, Department of Political Science


09.2015–12.2018 PhD in Political Science
Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science
09.2017–05.2018 Postgraduate Certificate in Statistics
Trinity College Dublin, School of Computer Science and Statistics
09.2014–08.2015 Master of Science in Politics and Public Policy
Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science
10.2011–06.2014 Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology
University of Bonn, Department of Political Science and Sociology

Visiting Positions

08.2019–09.2019 Visiting Research Fellow
Kobe University, Graduate School of Law (upcoming)
06.2019–07.2019 Visiting Researcher
Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science
05.2018–06.2018 Guest Researcher
EUROLAB at GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Cologne

Professional Experience

2018– Documentation Manager and Training Advisor
Quanteda Initiative CIC
2015–2018 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)

Selected Fellowships and Grants

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)

Open-Source Software