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Department of Political Science

Research area on “Protest and Political Parties” (coordinated by Daniel Bischof)

There is a rich body of literature dealing with the link between the public and political parties, likewise a burgeoning literature on the potential outcomes of social movements and protest exists. Yet these two strands of literature rarely engage with each other. Research initiatives in this new research area at the Chair of Comparative Politics aim at combining both literatures and try to understand how protests affect political parties and their organizations.

Taking to the street has become an ever more important toolbox to articulate popular grievances. Social movements have emerged throughout Western advanced democracies and transformed the political landscape in Europe. Also new political parties originated from these social movements – such as Green parties and the New Left. Given these developments it is, therefore, surprising that the link between political parties and protest has largely remained a lacuna in social movement studies and the literature on party competition.

This research builds on theoretical arguments developed in Daniel Bischof’s PhD thesis. The rationale is that besides public opinion polls, political protest will affect party position taking. The core hypothesis is that growing protest leads to polarization of party systems. While all parties will increase their attention to the issue at stake during protest in an effort to secure votes and/or office, they respond differently to protest contingent on how their ideology relates to protesters’ demands. In the future, the research area should contribute to extend theoretical arguments and work on a range of research questions covering the relationship between political parties and protest:

  • Does protest influence electoral results?
  • Do “new” parties emerge from protest and social movements?
  • Does protest affect party agendas? And if so, how?


  • Creation of a “Cross-Disciplines Network” among leading international scholars in political science and sociology.
  • Preparation of workshop in Zurich in Fall 2017.


  • Planning of authored volume.
  • Planning of journal special issue / symposium.
  • Creation of a databank on protest.
  • Master seminar on "Invasive Parties: Where New Parties Come From"
  • Paper by Daniel Bischof on “How Party Positions on Nuclear Energy Reflect the Classical Left-Right Division of Politics” (to be submitted soon).
  • Paper by Daniel Bischof on “Are Parties Responsive to Protest? A Comparative Analysis in 12 Western Democracies” (to be submitted soon).
  • Paper by Daniel Bischof on “Does Timing Matter? The Electoral Cycle and Parties’ Rhetorical Reactions to Public Claims” (to be submitted soon).
  • Paper by Daniel Bischof on “How Party Agendas Adapted to Postmaterialist Protests” (to be submitted soon).
  • Paper by Bischof, Daniel, Luca Bernardi and Ruud Wouters (in preparation). Government Agendas and the Adaptation to Public Preferences (presentation at APSA, Philadelphia).


  • Preparation of a grant application (SNF-Ambizione).