Zoe Lefkofridi, Ph.D.


University of Salzburg

Address: Rudolfskai 42

City: Salzburg - 5020

Country: Austria

About Me:

I study democracy, representation and European integration, with a focus on political inequalities. Currently, I am Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Salzburg. Prior to Salzburg, I was Jean Monnet Fellow at the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies (2014-5); Max Weber Fellow at the Dept. of Social and Political Sciences (2013-4) of the European University Institute in Florence; postdoctoral fellow at the University of Vienna (2009-2012) and visiting scholar at Stanford University (2011). I conducted my doctoral studies at the Institute for Advanced Studies/IHS and the University of Vienna (cum laude). I also hold MA degrees from the College of Europe (Bruges) and the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna (with distinction). My work appears in European Union Politics, Electoral Studies, European Political Science Review, West European Politics, among others.

Research Interests

European Politics

Comparative Political Institutions

Gender and Politics

Political Parties and Interest Groups

Representation and Electoral Systems

Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Specific Areas of Interest

Comparative Politics


European Union

Inequality And Exclusion

Political Parties

Political Representation

My Research:

I am interested in democracy and political representation. Important contributions of my work concern citizens' representation via parties in a multilevel system; congruence between citizens and elites beyond the classic Left-Right dimension and salience-based congruence. For instance, a key claim that my research with Alexia Katsanidou (GESIS, Cologne) on Multilevel Representation in the European Parliament  advances is that representation studies in the European Union (EU) should take into account the different levels of governance in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the peculiar linkage between the European citizens and policy makers. This work breaks new ground in the fields of representation, EU studies and federalism since it is the first to argue and empirically demonstrate that to fully understand citizens' representation in the European Parliament, we need to pay attention to its “split-level” structure, where policy inputs and outputs occur at different levels of government. A key message that our findings convey is that there is fertile ground for the development of transnational party democracy: when citizens use the EP election to express their policy views, political organizations largely succeed in aggregating these views through a multilevel channel. However, this holds more for the left-right dimension, and less for the EU dimension of conflict.
With Salience-Based Congruence between Parties and Voters Nathalie Giger (University of Geneva) and I enrich conventional understandings of policy congruence by incorporating salience into models of representation. Moreover, we contend that salience should be conceived and measured at the citizens’ level and discuss the merits of personal issue salience. Contrary to previous works that modeled salience as a macro-level variable, we explain why salience as an individual-level variable can provide a sound micro-foundation of the causal link between salience, proximity and the quality of representation. Our argument rests on the assumption that citizens prioritize among issues and that important issues exert a stronger influence than non-salient issues or broad ideological orientations on their selection of parties. The important salience plays in the alignment of parties and voters becomes evident in my collaborative work with Markus Wagner (University of Vienna) and Johanna Willmann (Stony Brook) on  Electoral Choice between Ideological Dimensions . In this study, we focus on a significant segment of the West European population that blends left-wing economic with traditional/authoritarian socio-cultural views and analyze their electoral choices in the absence of parties offering their specific package of policy positions. We argue and demonstrate empirically that the party preferences of left-authoritarian voters are shaped by their level of concern about the economy and immigration. The focus of this paper is therefore on how individual-level issue concerns shape the way in which policy distance influences decision-making at the ballot box. So, left-authoritarians prefer parties that defend similar economic views if they are concerned about the economic situation, but they prefer parties that are close to them on the socio-cultural dimension if they are worried about immigration. Thus, we present evidence that voter-level concern for each dimension is central to determining how left-authoritarians choose a party to support. We show that left-authoritarians generally privilege economic over socio-cultural congruence. These findings are theoretically relevant because they uncover how voters choose between parties in situations where there is no fully congruent option. Building on the memory model of information processing, we argue that the standards by which we judge parties can change depending on which issues and problems currently concern us most. Our findings are thus related to, and add to, the recent literature highlighting the importance of salience to issue voting. While we concentrate on a particular segment of the European population, our theory is therefore broadly applicable as well. Second, our findings are empirically important because they examine a section of European voters that is consistently unrepresented by any one party but crucial to contemporary Western European politics. This may be particularly true at the current time, as popular dissatisfaction with economic conditions in Europe is coupled with an increase in anti-immigration sentiment. Arguably, left-authoritarian attitudes capture the current mood well and are likely to remain electorally important for some time to come. Our findings also highlight when these voters might choose to support radical-right parties; thus, our findings generalise the argument that support for such parties is greater among voters who take electoral decisions based on their socio-cultural concerns.


Journal Articles:

(2018) When all Parties Nominate Women: Gender Stereotypes and Candidate Selection., Cambridge Core

Tags: Gender and Politics, Political Parties and Interest Groups, Representation and Electoral Systems, Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior, European Politics

Do political gender stereotypes exist in egalitarian settings in which all parties nominate women? Do they matter for candidate selection in systems of proportional representation with multiparty competition and preferential voting? To date, these questions remain unanswered because related research is limited to the U.S. case. Our pioneering study examines political stereotypes in one of the “least likely” cases, Finland—a global forerunner in gender equality. We find, first, that stereotypes persist even in egalitarian paradises. Second, when testing across settings of candidate choice, we find that the effect varies greatly: political gender stereotypes are powerful in hypothetical choices, but they work neither in favor of nor against female candidates when many “real,” viable, experienced, and incumbent female candidates are competing. Although in open-list systems with preferential voting, gender stereotypes can directly affect female candidates’ electoral success, in Finland, their actual impact in real legislative elections appears marginal.

(2018) A Step Closer to a Transnational Party System? Competition and Coherence in the 2009 and 2014 European Parliament*, Wiley

Tags: European Politics, Political Parties and Interest Groups, Representation and Electoral Systems, Public Policy, Legislative Politics

At this stage of European integration and given the high degree of Europe's politicization and salience caused by the recent global financial crisis, representative democracy in the EU can only function if parties mobilize beyond borders. We examine whether European Party Groups (EPG) in the European Parliament (EP) offer distinct policy alternatives and how coherent these are. We use party position data collected by two Voting Advice Applications designed for the 2009 and 2014 EP elections, respectively (EUProfiler and Euandi). We find evidence of competition between EPGs groups on both left right issues and European integration; on the latter issue, there is greater differentiation within the anti‐EU camp. Coherence within EPG exists, though it varies across issues, EPGs and between election years examined: it is greater on European integration than on left–right issues and it is particularly high for right wing eurosceptics though for most parties it deteriorates between 2009 and 2014.

(2014) Multilevel Representation in the European Parliament, European Union Politics

Tags: European Politics, Representation and Electoral Systems, Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Congruence in the European Parliament has been analyzed in terms of agreement between voters and national candidates/parties. The question whether voters and Europarties are congruent on major dimensions of contestation (left-right and European Union) remains unanswered. Acknowledging the ‘split-level’ structure of preference aggregation in the European Parliament, we theorize the interrelationships between these levels. Our model incorporates a typically neglected factor: the interplay between national parties and Europarties. We establish that voter–Europarty congruence is different from, and determined by, voter–national party congruence; moreover, national party–Europarty congruence moderates this relationship. Our findings shed new light on the quality of representation in the European Parliament and have key implications for understanding transnational democracy in the European Union.

(2012) Migration Policy Issues and Representation in European Liberal Democracies., Representation

Tags: European Politics, Immigration & Citizenship, Public Opinion

Does the diversity of party positions reflect the spread of mass opinions on migration issues? Our examination of mass and party positions as well as parties' compactness on migration issues in 14 EU member states counters previous work portraying public opinion as mostly favourable of restrictive immigration policies and political elites as being biased towards expansionist policy. We find that citizens are more moderate than parties on migration issues, while party positions strongly supporting immigration and multiculturalism are largely absent.

Book Chapters:

(2017) The Electoral Politics of Solidarity, Oxford University Press

Tags: European Politics, Immigration & Citizenship, Political Parties and Interest Groups

This chapter uses mixed methods to study the preferences of West European radical right parties (RRPs) towards socioeconomic redistribution and the welfare state. More precisely, we examine the evolution of these preferences through a comparative quantitative analysis of nine RRPs’ manifestos since the 1980s; then, we conduct in-depth qualitative analyses of Austrian, French and Swiss RRPs’ recent manifestos. We find that most RRPs tend to support the welfare state, albeit through a form of solidarity from which immigrants are excluded, which we term “exclusive solidarity”. As the term “radical right” suggests, RRPs initially located themselves on the right side of the political spectrum, both in relation to economic issues (i.e., defending market liberalisation) and on sociocultural issues (i.e., attacking immigration and multiculturalism). But over the years, many of these parties have repositioned themselves as champions of the welfare state, so as to draw working class voters away from social democratic parties, and indeed now attack immigration precisely on the grounds that it is a threat to the welfare state. The “radical right” can therefore also be seen as “left authoritarian” – that is, left on economic issues, but right on socio-cultural issues. This left authoritarian position appeals to a wide segment of the working class, as well as to many self-employed and small business owners, and it is likely to remain a powerful influence in contemporary Western politics.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2015) France24

TV Panel Discussion, Debate on “Greek Debt Talks: Tsipras promises credible reforms at EU Parliament”. 08.07.2015, 19.10-20.00 (part I)

(2015) France24

TV Panel Discussion, Debate on “Greek Debt Talks: Tsipras promises credible reforms at EU Parliament”. 08.07.2015, 19.10-20.00 (part II)

Radio Appearances:

(2015) swiss national radio (SRF)

Interview , 18.05.2015. “Gesellschaftliches Engagement als Folge der krise”

Newspaper Quotes:

(2015) derStandard

Research Profile


(2015) European University Institute Times Online

Interview - European Union Politics; Greece