Phone : +32 (0)2.650.33.88
Institut de Sociologie - CP124
Avenue Jeanne, 44
1050 Bruxelles - Belgique
After graduating as a political scientist from the University of Antwerp in 2005, I started as a researcher at that same university. For more than two years I conducted research on local politics and administration, at times combined with some teaching assistance. Since March 2008 I started as a PhD student at the Université libre de Bruxelles. My main research interests include social science concepts, ideologies, populism and voting behaviour. Details about projects, publications, etc. can be found in my regularly updated CV.
The rise and decline of populist parties
My main research question is: How can we explain the electoral fate of populist parties? Despite the wealth of research on the rise of the populist radical right, I see two major shortcomings. First, we lack a broader understanding of populism: the rise of social populist and neoliberal populist parties (see Mudde 2007) has not been investigated systematically. Second, it remains unclear why the support for populist parties is often very unstable. This is because most studies lack a longitudinal perspective.
The research question will be mainly answered by investigating the socio-demographic and attitdinal characteristics of populist voters. Existing data (Dutch Election Studies) and new data (PARTIREP voter survey) will be used to identify 'the populist voter'.
Concerning cases, I intend to focus on at least two cases of each subtype of populist parties: For the populist radical right I will analyze the Vlaams Belang (VB) in Belgium and the Dutch Partij Voor de Vrijheid (PVV) . As social populist parties I will analyze the Dutch Socialistische Partij (SP) and the German PDS/Die Linke. Neoliberal populist parties such as Lijst Dedecker (LDD) and Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) will also be investigated.
The underlying logic is that explanatory factors such as political distrust or nativism have the same impact on the different subtypes of populist parties but not necessarily on all populist parties. Those variables that do have the same impact on all cases are probably related to the populist character of the party and not to its adjacent ideological characteristics.
So far, I mainly investigated the concept and measurment of populism and performed two case studies (VB and LDD) in Belgium (Flanders). A comparison between the reasons of success for LDD and VB showed that there are many similarities. Nonetheless, LDD relies less on immigration for its electoral fortune. This suggests that immigration is not inherently related to populism. LDD has also less of an organizational structure as does the VB. The VB has other difficulties, however. The increased competition in the populist radical right niche combined with a systematic exclusion from power has made the party less relevant and attractive since 2007.
My research is embedded in a large scale project on changing patterns of participation and representation in modern democracies (more info on: http://www.partirep.eu/). This enables me to use data from a large scale voter survey and MP survey which both have been held in 2009.
Research interests: Social science concepts; populism; ideologies; populist radical right; voting behaviour; direct democracy