Research

Book Project

“Same History, Different Stories – Studying Political Indoctrination in School Textbooks”
Book proposal underway based on my dissertation “Same History, Different Stories: A Comparison of East and West German History Textbooks”.

Political leaders, irrespective of the regime or ideology they represent, use their influence over state institutions to maximize political control. A growing literature looks at the non-violent means used by political leaders to create political legitimacy and regime stability, especially under the form of information control. This literature focuses on ad-hoc information control and anti-regime coordination that are threatening; this overlooks the possibility of information control that is meant to shape not only the political information received, but the filter through which political information is processed.

In this book, I study the precise means of narrative control that guide political indoctrination in the form of a process to shape collective political national identity and information filtering. I propose indoctrination is a multi-level socialization-based process aimed at creating a political identity that is both supportive of the regime and skeptical of the regime’s opponents. I argue that the purest avenue for indoctrination is schooling and especially schooling via nation-building school subjects which also have the capacity to generate a selfreinforcing pro-regime loop through an individual’s collective memory. Nation-building is essentially a political instrument delivered primarily through schooling; this reinforces the need for political scientists to study education tied into the nation-building process, as a potential avenue for social identity creation, indoctrination, and political control. To understand how indoctrination through schooling is exercised, this study identifies a case study where two competing regimes (one democratic and one autocratic) with the same history share the same national history and then compares the schooling materials of the competing regimes referring to the same historical periods. By contrasting how the same history is used in two different nation-building narratives, I draw the core tactics used for indoctrination by the autocratic political regime.

The book’s main contribution is to bring forward a comprehensive theoretical framework to study political indoctrination in schooling materials, thus opening the way for a more in-depth study of indoctrination input and information control largely based on social identity theory. The book also stresses the importance of schooling materials as a readily available new data source for political science scholarship in both democratic and non-democratic political regimes.

Book Chapters
“Romania: Big crisis, small response” in Bohle, D., Eihmanis, E & Toplisek, A(Ed.) The political economy of COVID-19 responses in East Central Europe. European University Institute, 2022. (co-authored with Nils Oellerich)

The COVID-19 crisis generated a series of smaller crises in EU member states, especially in the states with the weakest pre-existing political institutions. This chapter analyses the socio-political context of 2020 and the way political institutions reacted to the pandemic. Political party activity was generally muted, despite the existence of local and general elections in the country.

“Perspective-taking” entry in Nai, A., Grömping, M., & Wirz, D. (Ed.) (forthcoming 2025). Elgar Encyclopedia of Political Communication. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

In an era of ever-increasing societal division, the attempt to study how to bring people back together has encouraged the proliferation of much academic research treading on the topic of perspective-taking. This section draws an updated perspective of the history and theoretical underpinnings of the concept, then illustrates how it has evolved in research in recent years, discusses some of the less explored dimensions of the concept and concludes with suggestions for future work.

Publications and Working Papers:

Published:
Violence Against Politicians, Negative Campaigning, and Public Opinion: Evidence from Poland (with Krzysztof Krakowski and Juan Morales) in Comparative Political Studies. 2022.

It is commonly viewed that violence against politicians increases support for the victim’s party. We revisit this conjecture drawing on evidence from an assassination of an opposition politician in Poland. First, we analyze engagement with Twitter content posted by opposition and government politicians using a difference-in-differences framework. Second, we use a public opinion survey collected in the days around the attack and compare party preferences of respondents interviewed just before and respondents interviewed just after the attack. Our results reveal decreased support for the victim’s (opposition) party relative to support for the government. To explain this finding, we show that the opposition antagonized the public by engaging in negative campaigning against the government over their politician’s assassination.

What can de-polarize the polarizers? Affective polarization for party activists before and after elections (with Costin Ciobanu), resubmitted after R&R. [draft version available here] [pre-registration available here]

Many researchers have identified polarization as problematic for democracy and disruptive for society in general. Because the increase of polarization is so dangerous, its mitigation becomes more urgent. We claim that cross-party contact might reduce affective polarization among party activists even in less established democracies. We leverage a pre-registered unique longitudinal dataset of party activists in a multi-party European post-communist democracy using a difference-in-difference framework. We study whether contact between strong partisans who act as party delegates in precincts on election day reduces affective polarization, while comparing with strong partisans without delegate responsibilities. We demonstrate that party activists are affectively polarized and that they are mostly polarized against the out-party elites and the party itself. Election-day contact with out-party peers has a limited effect on reducing animus towards the members and voters of the party the partisans are most polarized against. Similar to the mass public, party activists de-polarize immediately after elections and the effect persists for at least two months.

Pre-PhD:
The complicated relation between news frames and political trust: A case study of Romania (with Madalina Botan and Nicoleta Corbu) in Central European Political Studies Review, 2016.

This study tests through an experiment the hypothesis that heavy emphasis on conflicts in the news undermines political trust and has an impact on citizens’ cynicism and political participation. Findings do not support a uniform negative impact of the conflicts covered in the news but demonstrate a cumulative effect of their levels of intrusiveness and incivility. In addition, we found consistent evidence that personal characteristics influence people’s reactions to conflicts. For extrovert individuals, who are typically more assertive in public matters, have higher levels of political knowledge and feel more politically efficacious, exposure to conflict frames does not necessarily result in lower political trust.

Candidates with Easy Access Get More Favorable Coverage (with David Niven) in Newspaper Research Journal, 2015.

An analysis of the 2006 primary campaigns for the Ohio governorship found that candidates offering the media easier access enjoyed substantially more positive coverage that reflected an imbalance in their favor both in candidate-driven news and in the use of candidate quotes.

Working Papers:
The Election Monitor’s Reward. Political Participation During Elections Can Reliably Increase Satisfaction with Democracy (with Costin Ciobanu). Working paper.

Using a pre-registered panel of political activists from a new party in a EU-member country, we study if political participation in election monitoring securely increases the monitor’s satisfaction with democracy. We employ a difference-in-difference framework to identify a plausible counterfactual group. We also use data to explore potential heterogeneous effects.

Who drives affective polarization? Analysis of party elites, activists, and voters (with Costin Ciobanu). Working paper.

While affective polarization is one of the most studied topics in modern political behaviour research, little is known about the varying levels of AP in different societal groups. In this paper, we zoom in on one new political party in an EU member state and comparatively study the affective polarization levels of the party elites, the party activists, and the party voters. We find some evidence to confirm that party elites are likely less polarized than party activists.

Left behind and Voting Right: Residential Sorting and Populist Radical Right Support in Eastern Germany (with Arndt Leininger and Mark Kayser). Working paper.

Growing support for populist radical right parties in declining areas, especially in post-communist societies, has often been attributed to the strain of economic decline, failure to instill democratic norms, and xenophobia. We propose a different but complementary explanation: emigration from these regions means that many voters who would have been least likely to support anti-system parties have left and left behind a population of increasingly disaffected voters. We exploit the case of German reunification when 16 million East Germans were suddenly free to move to wealthier West Germany and show that net outflows predict higher levels of populist radical right support. Using both administrative and panel survey data, we investigate multiple mechanisms: those who left are different from those who stayed, and a higher concentration of anti-establishment voters in out-migration areas affects the political preferences of those who stay.

Exploring indoctrination: Analysis and Detection of Indoctrination in GDR and FRG History Textbooks (with Lucie Flek and Lars Wolf). Working paper.

(Transitional) Justice is Legacy. How Post-Communist Transitional Justice Informs Contemporary Identity Cleavages? Working paper.

Historical legacies of communist dictatorships have been studied heavily in recent years, showing that political actions initiated in communism may have important effects on contemporary political attitudes and behaviours. Unavoidably, communism creates important tensions between its in-group and its out-group. This paper explores how dealing with the communist past at the onset of modern democracies may perpetuate or mitigate the tensions within society. This study is conducted in CEE post-communist countries, many of which have often been identified as generating high levels of unexplained affective polarization considering their underdeveloped political cleavages.

Non-peer Reviewed publications

In Romania:

Youth Study Romania, English, co-author, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2019;

Commercial Sex Work: stigma and marginalization, main author, Romanian, Carusel, 2015;

European Comparative Study Regarding the Intra-European Mobility and Migration of Youth in Romania, co-author, English, Novapolis, 2015;

Youth Study Romania, English, co-author, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2014;

In European Union:

Democratic Resilience Index, co-author and editor, English, Global Focus Center, 2020; 

Resistance to Propaganda, co-author and editor, English, Global Focus Center, 2018;