Three questions for ... Carolina Plescia


As part of a collaboration between the University of Vienna and the University LUISS in Rome, Carolina Plescia conducted a pre- and post-election panel study on the Austrian national election 2017. The study focussed on the parties' agenda setting.

What is your study about? 

To win elections, parties rely on different strategies. In this paper, we investigated party issue strategies during the 2017 Austrian election campaign to examine which strategy the victorious Austrian Peoples' Party (ÖVP) relied on the most as opposed to its main party competitors. In particular, we studied whether the ÖVP merely focused on issues that voters cared about the most, or whether the ÖVP tailored its campaign on all those issues with the goal of 'electoral expansion'. To do this, we collected two types of data: on the one hand, we fielded a public opinion survey aimed at capturing voters' priorities, their ideological positions and issue credibility perceived by the parties on more than thirty policy issues; on the other hand, we collected data on party communication on the exact same policy issues by focusing on Twitter feeds of parties and their leading candidates during the entire campaign period. Data collection closely follows the studies conducted in other countries involved in the Issue Competition Comparative Project (ICCP) led by the University LUISS in Rome.


What do you think is the most exciting aspect of your study? Were there any surprising results?

Besides being part of a large team of researchers from six European countries, the exciting aspect of this study was to test some of the speculations put forward by media about the remarkable success of the ÖVP during the 2017 election. Our results clearly show that the ÖVP did not simply focus on issues salient to voters during the election campaign - such as immigration - but rather strategically exploited all available opportunities to target all those issues - such as economic growth - on which its long-term, core supporters' preferences aligned with those of the rest of the voters. This strategy was in clear contrast with the strategies of the losing parties of the 2017 Austrian election, in particular the Green party.


Why did you choose to make your data accessible?


There are growing efforts to make research data accessible to the public, which facilitates verifiable and replicable science. By making data available, we also aim to encourage other researchers to investigate additional research questions, and further contribute to the understanding of public opinion and political representation.


  • Carolina Plescia is a Hertha Firnberg Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Government at the University of Vienna. Her research focuses on public opinion, electoral behaviour and political representation. She has published in journals such as Political Psychology, West European Politics, Electoral Studies and Party Politics among others.

Carolina Plescia (Foto: Aisling Finn Photography)