Felix Hagemeister - Is Populism Contagious? Evidence from Parliamentary Speeches in Germany/ COVID-19 and Populism - A Push to the Extremes?

Encina Hall West, Room 400 (Graham Stuart Lounge)

We provide novel evidence of a contagion effect of right-wing populism in the political arena. Using several thousand digitized speeches from the German Parliament, we show that exposure to right-wing populist politicians makes non-populist politicians slant their parliamentary speeches towards the populist rhetoric. We measure similarity to populist rhetoric both via a supervised dictionary method and via unsupervised cosine similarity to parliamentary speeches from AfD politicians. We validate our measure using manifestly populist speeches at populist rallies. We exploit exogenous variation from the allocation rule for committee members in the German Parliament to identify a causal estimate. We find that an additional AfD member in a shared committee of 20 politicians is associated with a 0.375 increase in standardized AfD cosine similarity. The effect remains robust to including party, month, committee, and speaker fixed effects and does not seem to be driven by shared committee topics or selection effects.


Felix Hagemeister’s research focuses on three key issues within the field of political economy. First, his work deals with the topic of populism and right-wing ideology, where he investigates explanations, consequences, and potential remedies. Second, Felix uses text data analysis to gain insights into the interplay of politics and the media. Finally, his work touches upon questions in health economics related to COVID-19 and smoking. Overall, his research aims to improve our understanding of social norms and individual decision-making in critical areas for policy.

After studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) at the University of Warwick in the UK, Felix obtained both his M.Sc. and PhD in Economics at LMU Munich. He also spent parts of his research career at UPF (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona). From May 2021, Felix holds the Post-Doc Fellowship in Global Transformations at HfP.