Research

Projects

Sara Hobolt’s research focuses on questions related to the functioning of democracy and the engagement of citizens in democratic processes. Specifically, she has published extensively on elections, referendums, government responsiveness, representation and accountability in the European Union and party competition.

Her research has received funding from a range of funding agencies, including the European Research Council (ERC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust and the Volkswagen Foundation.

She is currently working on the following four main research projects:

  1. ERC Consolidator Grant. EUDEMOS: Constrained Democracy
  2. Brexit attitudes and identities
  3. European Election Studies (EES)
  4. COVID-19: Compliance, Consent and Liberal Democratic Attitudes

EUDEMOS: Constrained Democracy: Citizens’ Responses to Limited Political Choice in the European Union

Funding: ERC Consolidator Grant (GA647835)

Postdoctoral fellows: Toni Rodon, Moritz Osnabruegge and Sebastian Barfort

Other co-authors: Julian Hoerner, Catherine De Vries, Hector Solaz, James Tilley

Summary:

The EUDEMOS project examines the impact of political choice on citizens’ political behaviour and attitudes. How is political choice changing in Europe? What are the implications for citizen mobilization, vote choices and satisfaction with democracy?

Political choice is crucial to democracy and lies at the heart of what distinguishes democratic systems from non-democratic ones. In most systems, political parties play a key role in offering choice to citizens: they organize politics and channel societal conflict into institutionalized patterns of political competition in ways that serve to reveal and aggregate voters’ preferences such that governments can represent its citizens. The extent to which a party system can provide a range of political choices to citizens that match their preferences has profound implications for the nature and quality of democracy.

The aim of EUDEMOS is to examine both how the nature of political choice has developed in Europe in the post-war period – with closer European integration, the rise of challenger parties, increasing fragmentation and polarization – and the consequences of changing political choice for voter mobilization, electoral choices and satisfaction with democracy.  We show that party systems are changing. Challenger parties are on the rise in Europe. Like disruptive entrepreneurs, these parties offer new policies and defy the dominance of established party brands. This has implications for the nature of choice offered by a system, which in turn has implications for citizen engagement with politics, their electoral choices and how satisfied they are with politics.

Publications:

Hobolt, Sara B. and Toni Rodon. “Domestic Contestation and European Integration.” Special Issue of Journal of European Public Policy, 27.2 (2020): 227-245.

Hobolt, Sara B., and Toni Rodon. “Cross-cutting issues and electoral choice. EU issue voting in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum.” Journal of European Public Policy, 27.2 (2020): 227-245.

Hoerner, Julian M., and Sara B. Hobolt. “Unity in diversity? Polarization, issue diversity and satisfaction with democracy.Journal of European Public Policy (2019): 1-20.

Hobolt, Sara B., and Julian M. Hoerner. “The mobilising effect of political choice.European Journal of Political Research, 59.2 (2019): 229-247.

Hobolt, Sara B. “Brexit and the 2017 UK general election.” Journal of Common Market Studies, 56.S1 (2018): 39-50.

Rodon, Toni, and Marc Guinjoan. “When the context matters: Identity, secession and the spatial dimension in Catalonia.” Political Geography, Vol. 63 (2018): 75-87.

Hobolt, Sara B., and James Tilley. “Fleeing the centre: the rise of challenger parties in the aftermath of the euro crisis.” West European Politics, 39.5 (2016): 971-991.

Book:

De Vries, Catherine and Sara B. Hobolt, Political Entrepreneurs. The Rise of Challenger parties in Europe. Princeton University Press, 2020.

Blog Post:

Hoerner, Julian; Hobolt, Sara B. (2017) The AfD succeeded in the German election by mobilising non-voters on the right. LSE EUROPP blog.

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Brexit Attitudes and Identities

Funding: ESRC UK in a Changing Europe Programme

Co-authors: James Tilley, Thomas Leeper, Miriam Sorace, Toni Rodon

Summary:

The Brexit referendum left Britain a politically divided country: ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ became new political and social identities that still shape how people view politics and each other. In this project, we demonstrate the existence of affective polarization along Brexit lines, how Brexit identities have shaped economic perceptions and a partial realignment of British party politics. Furthermore, we explore how these identities evolve and, potentially, fade. What shapes and reinforces these new Brexit identities? Why are these identities so central for some people, but tangential for others? And are these identities fading, or changing in nature, now that Britain has left the EU?

Publications:

Hobolt, Sara B., Thomas J. Leeper, and James Tilley. “Policy Preferences in the Wake of Referendums: Evidence from the Brexit negotiations.” Political Behavior: In press.

Sorace, Miriam and Sara. B Hobolt. “A Tale of Two Peoples: Motivated Reasoning in the Aftermath of the Brexit Vote.” Political Science Research and Methods. In press.

Hobolt, Sara B., Thomas J. Leeper, and James Tilley. “Divided by the vote: affective polarization in the wake of the Brexit referendum.” British Journal of Political Science. (2020) https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123420000125.
**Winner of the Best Paper Award, 2019, American Political Science Association (Elections, Public Opinion and Voting)**

Leeper, Thomas J., Sara B. Hobolt, and James Tilley. “Measuring subgroup preferences in conjoint experiments.Political Analysis, 28.2 (2020): 207-221.

Hobolt, Sara B., and Toni Rodon. “Cross-cutting issues and electoral choice. EU issue voting in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum.” Journal of European Public Policy, 27.2 (2020): 227-245.

Blog Posts:

UK in a Changing Europe. Months away from leaving, the data shows Britain remains divided as ever on what Brexit will mean for the country (23/1/2019)

UK in a Changing Europe. How Leavers and Remainers view the economy through a Brexit lens (15/8/2018)

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European Election Studies (EES)

Funding: Volkswagen Foundation (and others)

EES Co-Chairs: Sara B Hobolt & Wouter van der Brug

Other co-authors:  Catherine De Vries, Mark Franklin, Sebastian Popa, Hermann Schmitt, Jae-Jae Spoon, James Tilley

Summary:

The European Election Studies (EES) is a pan-European study, directed by leading election scholars across Europe, that has examined voting behaviour, citizens’ attitudes, parties, candidates and the media in the context of the European Parliament elections since 1979. The EES has resulted in the publication of hundreds of books and journal articles on electoral behaviour, participation and public attitudes and has helped to inform the wider debate on democracy in Europe. The EES is more than an election study. We also collect and analyse social media data, party manifestos, candidate positions and news media content. The EES is currently chaired by Sara Hobolt and Wouter van der Brug and Sebastian Popa is the Treasurer. The EES brings together a network of academic partners across Europe.

Datasets:

Schmitt, Hermann, Hobolt, Sara B, van der Brug, Wouter and Popa, Sebastian A (2019). European  Parliament Election Study 2019, Voter Study

Schmitt, Hermann; Hobolt, Sara B.; Popa, Sebastian A.; Teperoglou, Eftichia (2015). European Parliament Election Study 2014, Voter Study. GESIS Data Archive, Cologne. ZA5160 Data file Version 1.0.0, doi:10.4232/1.5160

Egmond, Marcel van; Brug, Wouter van der; Hobolt, Sara; Franklin, Mark; Sapir, Eliyahu V. (2013). European Parliament Election Study 2009, Voter Study. GESIS Data Archive, Cologne. ZA5055 Data file Version 1.1.0, doi:10.4232/1.11760

Publications:

Hobolt, Sara B. and Catherine E. De Vries. “Turning against the union? The impact of the crisis on the Eurosceptic vote in the 2014 European Parliament elections.” Electoral Studies, Vol. 44 (2016): 504-514.

Hobolt, Sara and James Tilley. “Fleeing the centre: the rise of challenger parties in the aftermath of the Euro crisis.” West European Politics, 39.5 (2016): 971-991.

Hobolt, Sara. “The 2014 European Parliament elections: divided in unity?” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 53.S1 (2015): 6-21.

Schmitt, Hermann, Sara B. Hobolt, Sebastian A. Popa. “Does Personalization Increase Turnout? Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament Elections.” European Union Politics, 16.3 (2015): 347-368.

Hobolt, Sara B. and James Tilley (2014) Blaming Europe? Responsibility without accountability in the EU. Oxford University Press.

Hobolt, Sara B. “A vote for the President? The role of Spitzenkandidaten in the 2014 European Parliament elections.” Journal of European Public Policy, 21.10 (2014): 1528-1540.

Hobolt, Sara and Jae-Jae Spoon. “Motivating the European voter: parties, issues and campaigns in European Parliament elections.” European Journal of Political Research, 51.6 (2012): 701-727.

Hobolt, Sara B. and Mark Franklin. “Electoral Democracy in the European Union.” Electoral Studies, 30.1 (2011): 1-3.

Franklin, Mark and Sara B. Hobolt. “The legacy of lethargy: How elections to the European Parliament depress turnout.” Electoral Studies, 30.1 (2011): 67-76.

Hobolt, Sara B., Jae-Jae Spoon and James Tilley. “A vote against Europe? Explaining defection at the 1999 and 2004 European Parliament elections.” British Journal of Political Science, 39.1 (2009): 93-115.

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COVID-19: Compliance, Consent and Liberal Democratic Attitudes

Funding: LSE, University of Amsterdam, British Academy

Co-authors: Kevin Arceneaux, Bert Bakker, Catherine De Vries, Chris Anderson

Summary:

Pandemics call for strong executive action. In the case of COVID-19, this has involved policies restricting citizens’ liberties and forcing people to change their daily lives in fundamental ways. Aimed at containing the spread of the virus, this has included, among others, a ban on public gatherings and restrictions on individual movement. While such measures have sound public health foundations, they rely on public compliance and consent to be effective.

In a series of papers, Sara Hobolt and co-authors examine questions relating to the pandemic, compliance, consent and support for liberal democratic attitudes. Some of the questions examined are:

  • How has the pandemic shaped support for incumbent governments?
  • What can responses to the pandemic tell us about support for core liberal democratic principles?
  • How sustainable and malleable is compliance with and approval of COVID-19 related measures?
  • Which are the dominant drivers of willingness to comply? Which messages and messengers are more effective in engendering and sustaining compliance?

Output:

De Vries, Catherine E., Bert N. Bakker, Sara B. Hobolt, and Kevin Arceneaux. Crisis Signaling: How Italy’s Coronavirus Lockdown Affected Incumbent Support in Other European Countries. Available at SSRN 3606149 (2020).

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