Democracy at heart? Studying Democratic Commitment through Trade-offs

Motivated by the worrying decline of democracy across the globe, this research endeavour seeks to understand if and under which conditions citizens value democratic procedures. Rather than studying democratic norms in isolation, we investigate how citizens make trade-offs between policy preferences (output) and procedural preferences (i.e. the democratic process). In collaboration with Hannah Werner (KU Leuven) and Catherine de Vries (Bocconi University), and with the use of cross-national survey experiments, we study how committed citizens are to democracy when faced with the external threat of climate change.

WELTRUST: Welfare State Support and Political Trust: Integrating Economic, Cultural, and Policy Explanations 

Funded by the Norwegian Research Council, the WELTRUST project analyzes two sets of political orientations that help reveal if the policies and politics of mature welfare states enjoy popular legitimacy. One is “welfare state support,” i.e. attitudes to government redistribution to various groups in society. The other orientation is “political trust”; this can mean satisfaction with democratic processes and trustworthiness of politicians and societal “elites”. Together with Professor Staffan Kumlin (University of Oslo) and Atle Haugsgjerd (Institute for Social Research), I investigate the impact of multiple welfare state evaluations on welfare state support and political trust. Relatedly, we are concerned with how these evaluative factors trigger and mute political ramifications of “old” and “new” economic risks and cultural divisions.


RADIUNCE: Politicians Under Radical Uncertainty

This 5-year project, funded by an ERC Consolidator grant (#101043543) awarded to Barbara Vis, aims to develop a theory to answer the question: How do politicians respond to different types of uncertain phenomena (radical, resolvable)? To this end, it will focus on how politicians respond to different types of uncertainty in four countries with different opportunities and constraints of responding to uncertainty: Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Our research team will examine among other things whether and how the behavioral responses to uncertainty are shaped by politicians’ characteristics, like personality, and by institutional factors, like the political system.



Integrating Diversity in the European Union (InDivEU) is a Horizon 2020 funded research project aimed at contributing concretely to the current debate on the ‘Future of Europe’ by assessing, developing and testing a range of models and scenarios for different levels of integration among EU member states. It connects researchers from 15 academic institutions across the European continent. Within this project, I focus on public preferences for differentiated integration, and the  positions of governments and political parties. Together with Catherine de Vries (University of Bocconi), I study the role of institutional procedures and policy design for public acceptance and EU support.


PhD project: The conditionality of evaluative-based political trust

This project studies the policy-feedback link between perceptions of government performance and political trust. Conventional wisdom suggests that government performance drives trust. Those who are unsatisfied with the performance of the current government are likely to hold less political trust. This punishment-reward mechanism, however, becomes more complex when government responsibilities are unclear. Furthermore, citizens vary greatly in their experiences with and opinions of government performance, which challenges a universal reward-punishment mechanism.

For my PhD, I study the heterogeneity between and within citizens with respect to evaluative-based political trust. I disentangle the conditions affecting the relationship between government performance evaluations and political trust including perceptions of responsibility, clarity of responsibility, personal experiences with policies, and relative salience of policy issues. For this purpose, I employ a wide array of Dutch, Norwegian and International data sources including the Dutch Local Election Studies (2016, 2018), the European Election Studies (2009), the TNS NIPO panel (2017), the European Social Survey (2016), CBS register data. The PhD project is part of the NWO TOP-project on the ‘Democratic Challenge’.

Supervisors: Prof. Wouter van der Brug & Prof. Tom W.G. van der Meer

Welfare State Legitimacy in Times of Crisis and Between Continuity and Change

Book project: Bart Meuleman, Wim van Oorschot and Tijs Laenen (eds.)

This edited volume sheds light on the question how public opinion has reacted to the economic recession and the consequent welfare reforms. To that end, the chapters in this book compare data from the European Social Survey (ESS) welfare attitudes module of 2008/09 (i.e. the beginning of the crisis) with the most recent data collection of 2016/17. The chapter I co-author with Staffan Kumlin and Atle Haugsgjerd (UiO) focuses on welfare state performance and political trust. The book was published by Edward Elgar Publishing in 2020 (see publications).

Role Orientations and Preferences for Direct Democracy of Dutch Local Councilors

This project builds on a unique survey among all Dutch councilors asking about their legitimacy beliefs, their attitudes towards direct democracy and their perceived role orientation (trustee/delegate). This project is in collaboration with Sarah de Lange (UvA).