Role Models Can Decrease Women’s Political Ambition (Draft, September 2017)

Florian Foos and Fabrizio Gilardi

One of the main reasons for the continued underrepresentation of women in politics is the persistent gender gap in political ambition. Exposure to role models is widely believed to increase women’s political ambition. We show that this view is incomplete because it fails to account for mechanisms highlighted in related fields such as economics and psychology. When role models are viewed up close and share their experiences candidly, they can increase as well as decrease political ambition, by reinforcing perceptions of the challenges women encounter in a political career. We conducted a field experiment in which students were invited to participate in workshops led by female politicians. The treatment increased interest in the ongoing national election campaign, but did not have a positive effect on political ambition, and possibly decreased it. This study demonstrates the need for a new line of research into gender role models in politics.

Mobilizing Party Activism: A Field Experiment with Party Members and Sympathizers (Draft, March 2016)

Giordano Neuenschwander and Florian Foos

Electoral mobilization is often characterized as a two-stage process, in which parties mobilize their core supporters, who then mobilize a larger share of the electorate. It is, however, still unclear whether mobilization in the context of electoral campaigns can affect the campaign activism of core supporters. To address this question, we conducted a randomized field experiment in cooperation with the Swiss Social Democratic Party in the context of the 2015 cantonal elections in the Swiss state of Ticino. The experiment consisted in the randomized administration of mobilization telephone calls to a sample of 258 members and sympathizers of the party, while their opinions and self-reported campaign activism were monitored by means of an online panel survey. Against expectations, we find that phone calls appear to have been ineffective -- and at worst -- might have backfired, since we consistently record small, negative effects on different measures of campaign activism including on the mobilization of relatives, and friends. The results raise important questions about omitted variable bias in observational studies of party activism that consistently report significant positive effects of party contact on campaign activism of core voters.

Does Social Media Promote Civic Activism? A Field Experiment with a Civic Campaign (Draft, December 2015)

Florian Foos, Lyubomir Kostadinov, Nikolay Marinov and Frank Schimmelfennig

Does social media promote civic activism? Many features of social media such as the ability to identify like-minded people, to spread information and to attract supporters for actions, suggest that it should be a good instrument for promoting civic activism. Casual observations, from pro-democracy protests and elsewhere, suggest this is the case. We conduct a field experiment to study the effects of social media. We select a random sample of 3000 respondents in Bulgaria. We randomly assign some participants to a group receiving an encouragement to like a Facebook page devoted to the preservation of a threatened natural resource. We encourage another group to sign up for an email newsletter promoting the same campaign. Our remaining respondents constitute the control group. In a survey distributed two months later, we probe respondents’ attitudes about the effectiveness of civic action.