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Bridging over troubled water: Electoral availability in European party systems at the time of the Great Recession (2009-2014). An application of Bayesian Ideal Point Estimation. (PhD dissertation)

Every voter has a unique perspective on politics. As a consequence, it is likely that different voters perceive the policy space in different ways. I show that standard measures of party positions, using voters’ average reported perception on latent general scales, such as the left-right and the EU integration, are systematically biased. In fact, voters’ reported perceptions are inherently subjective, and this undermines the direct comparability of their positions. Perceptual disagreement has also led some scholars to the conclusion that voters don’t possess enough information to form meaningful evaluations of party positions. Elaborating on recent methodological innovations, I estimate a two-stage Bayesian scaling model that produces comparable interval-level positions (ideal points) for voters and political parties from 27 European Union countries on two dimensions of the European political space, namely the general left-right and the position towards EU integration. After careful validation, I use the new measures to study the structure of electoral competition in contemporary Europe. Results show that EU integration —and not the general left-right— is the main underlying driving force of voters’ electoral availability.

(with Lorenzo De Sio and Vincenzo Emanuele) How parties strategically select issues according to issue yield: a case study linking survey and Twitter data. Paper accepted for the MPSA Conference, Chicago 2016.

The issue yield model (De Sio/Weber in APSR 2014) introduces a theory of the heresthetic use of policy issues as strategic resources in multidimensional party competition. In this paper we provide the first application of the model to Twitter communication produced by parties (and their leaders), by focusing on the case study of Italy during the campaign for the 2014 European Parliament elections. We first introduce a novel research design that features: a) a systematic measurement of issue yield through a pre-campaign dedicated CAWI survey that includes a large number of issue statements; b) a scheme for the manual coding of tweets, closely reflecting the survey issue statements. After discussing the results and reliability of the coding scheme, we test the main hypothesis of the model: to what extent political parties shape their Twitter communication according to the risk/opportunity configuration offered by different issues, as it emerges from public opinion captured before the campaign. Preliminary results show that issue yield is a good predictor of party strategy on Twitter, with effects that are even larger than previously found e.g. on Manifesto data.

(with Paolo Bellucci) Accountability or partisan rationalisation in economic voting? An analysis of economic perceptions and partisanship as determinants of vote choice during the Great Recession in Italy (2011-2013). Paper under review.

Political behaviour research clusters around two different perspectives of vote choice: the rational choice approach holds that voting decisions are taken by judging incumbent’s performance and economic records; the social-psychological account suggests that voters develop an identification with political parties able to raise a perceptual screen colouring political evaluations. Our paper shows the coexistence of these two accounts before the sudden deterioration of Italian economic conditions, while afterwards only the economic voting explanation resists the empirical test. Analyses rely on a five-wave panel survey from Italy fielded across two unanticipated and unambiguous economic and political shocks during the 2011-13 Euro crisis. We adopt a Longitudinal Structural Equation (LSEM) approach supplemented with instrumental variables to overcome the problem of endogenous economic perceptions. Finally, we find that political conditioning is mediated by political socialisation, cognitive abilities and the sources of political information, while economic voting is almost invariant across electorate’s subgroups.

Garzia, D. and De Angelis, A. and Pianzola Joelle (2015). The impact of Voting Advice Applications on electoral participation. In Garzia, D. and Marschall, S., Matching voters with parties and candidates: Voting Advice Applications in a comparative perspective”. ECPR press.

With the growing number of voters resorting to VAAs at election time, interest has arisen concerning the potential effect of these tools on the political behaviour of the users. We focus on one of the crucial questions in this strand of literature, namely: What is the effect of VAA-usage on users’ patterns of electoral participation? We analyse survey data from Finland, Germany, Netherlands, and Switzerland, with treatment effect model to tackle the issue of self-selection into VAA usage. Results point towards a significant impact of VAAs on electoral participation.

Garzia, D. and De Angelis, A. 2014. Partisanship, leader evaluations and the vote: Disentangling the new iron triangle in electoral research. Comparative European Politics.
This article provides an empirical assessment of the causal structure underlying the core dependent variable of electoral research (the vote) and two of its most notable predictors (partisanship and leader evaluations). A critical review of traditional models of voting highlights the need to account for the reciprocal relationship between the main predictors as well as for the potential feedback stemming from the dependent variable. In the light of these considerations, a new ‘iron triangle’ of electoral research would seem to take shape, with partisanship, leader evaluations and the vote tight to each other by a strong link of reciprocal causation. Making use of pre-/post-election surveys from Britain and Italy, the empirical analysis provides evidence for a strong effect of past behaviour on political attitudes. However, past behaviour seems to exert its effect mainly on partisan attitudes, whereas party leader evaluations appear only slightly affected. The results point to the considerably weakened role of partisanship as attitudinal anchor of vote choice. Leader evaluations, on the contrary, emerge as a crucial component in the voting decision.

De Angelis, A. and Garzia, D. 2013. Individual level dynamics of PTV change across the electoral cycle. Electoral Studies.

Propensity-to-vote (PTV) scores are ever more commonly used in electoral research as a measure of electoral utilities. Yet a growing literature employs them as dependent variable in the voting equation in place of the lower information granted by vote recall questions. However, this choice can be seen as problematic because of the very structure of election survey research. To the extent that voters’ PTVs are measured in post-election surveys (as it is often the case) these are likely to result endogenously produced by actual voting behaviour in the past election – thus partly undermining the validity of the PTV question which, ideally, should not be related to any specific election. In this paper, we try to disentangle the relationship between short-term political attitudes (leader evaluations, issue proximity, economic assessments) and voters’ changing patterns of propensities to vote in both an electoral and a non-electoral context. The latter scenario serves as a means to rule out the potentially contaminating effect of voting choices on voters’ PTVs. The data comes from two panel surveys of Italian voters conducted by ITANES in occasion of the 2006 general election, and in 2011 (that is, in a non-electoral year) respectively.

Bellucci, P. and De Angelis, A. 2013. Government approval in Italy: Political cycle, economic expectations and TV coverage. Electoral Studies.

This paper analyses government approval in Italy – which has become a key aspect for electoral support in the new party system of the Second Republic – exploring the influence that TV coverage exerts on approval net of traditional accounts of government support.
Relying on both aggregate time series and pooled individual-level surveys analyses, it is shown that communication has a sizable impact on government approval. The popularity of Centre-Left and Centre-Right governments is affected evenly by the economy but
differently by the news coverage of their activity. People with lower political interest are the most reactive to news coverage of government performance.