Society, Populism and Electoral Trends

The Dahrendorf project cycle 2017-19 focuses on the strategic challenges posed by recent significant changes in the political landscape of Europe. In 2016, Britain’s historic vote to leave the EU was one manifestation of wider trends that have seen growing tension between nationalism and international cooperation, a hardening of attitudes towards immigration and the rise of populism. All of these issues call into question the future of the European project and the aspiration towards ‘ever closer union’. They affect such matters as relations between the EU and non-EU countries within Europe; future developments in existing EU policy fields (e.g. fiscal and monetary policy, migration policy, foreign and security policy, judicial cooperation); further integration and institutional development within the EU; and the development of political culture and values in Europe.


This working group addresses the implications of societal change (migration flows, increasing and persisting inequalities, decreased social mobility) for politics (populism, new movements and party formations and voter preferences) and for the public sphere (role of the media, and civil society generally) in Europe. Developments in recent years have seen the focus shift away from labour, social and education policy towards a focus on financial and economic integration. This change in approach has created major social rifts in European societies and polities, which in turn, made the political arena a contested battleground to challenge the role of the media and the public sphere alike. In this context, the working group addresses two central questions, including the formulation of policy recommendations:

  • How to understand current political changes, especially populism and its underlying causes?
  • How to respond to such changes, especially in view of the public sphere and the (social) media?

Working group co-chairs

Helmut Anheier, President and Professor of Sociology, Hertie School
Andrea Römmele, Professor for Communication in Politics and Civil Society, Hertie School

Working group members

Johannes Ebert, Secretary General, Goethe-Institut e.V., München
Rachel Gibson, Professor of Political Science / Director of the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, University of Manchester
Andreas Görgen, Head of department, Culture and communication, Federal Foreign Office, Berlin
Sylvie Goulard, Former Member of the European Parliament / Founding member of United Europe
Sara B Hobolt, Sutherland Chair in European Institutions at the European Institute, LSE, London
Elisabeth Kotthaus, Head of Unit ‘Social Aspects, Passenger Rights and Equal Opportunities’, European Commission Directorate for Mobility and Transport, Brussels
Radosław Markowski, Head of the Comparative Politics Department, Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences / Chair of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Wolfgang Seibel, Full Professor of Politics and Public Administration, University of Konstanz; Adjunct Professor of Public Administration, Hertie School
Nico Siegel, Managing Director, Infratest dimap, Berlin
Wolfgang Silbermann, political scientist, speech writer to Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Daniela Stockmann, Professor of Digital Politics and Media, Hertie School of Governance

Post-doctoral fellows

TBA, Dahrendorf Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Hertie School
Julia Himmrich, Dahrendorf Post-Doctoral Fellow at LSE