ZEW Honours Up-and-Coming Researchers for Their Work on Populism


ZEW Presents Heinz König Young Scholar Award

The jurors with the award winner (from left): ZEW economist Friedrich Heinemann, award winner Christian Ochsner, ZEW economist Sebastian Siegloch, LBBW representative Michael Jung and Doris Brettar, deputy Head of the ZEW service department "General Services".

The ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim has presented the Heinz König Young Scholar Award for the 21st time. This year, the research award went to Christian Ochsner from CERGE-EI in Prague and the University of Zurich, and Felix Roesel from the ifo Institute in Dresden. The young researchers were awarded the prize by ZEW for their research on populism. With their study, Ochsner and Roesel contribute towards creating a better understanding of the mechanisms that can lead to the success of populist communication.

The annual Heinz König Young Scholar Award of ZEW comes with an endowment of 5,000 euros and includes the opportunity to spend an extended research visit at ZEW. Every year, the research prize is donated by a member of the ZEW Sponsors’ Association for Science and Practice. The donor of this year’s prize was the Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW). Michael Jung, head of the division of corporate customers Baden-Württemberg North-West, congratulated the award winners: “It is a particular pleasure for us to support young, promising researchers who are dealing with problems of such high relevance for peaceful coexistence in Europe.”

The winning paper investigates how the anti-Islam campaigns of Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party (FDÖ) have affected the party’s share of the vote since 2005. The findings show that the rhetoric used by the party fell on particularly fertile grounds in regions that experienced acts of violence during the Ottoman sieges of Vienna in the 16th and 17th century.

Understanding and reflecting historical events is important in order to ensure peaceful coexistence in Europe

For the purpose of their study, Christian Ochsner and Felix Roesel compiled and digitised historical data on the sieges to compare the FPÖ’s electoral success in municipalities that had been under siege with those that had not been besieged. They were able to establish a causal relationship on the basis of numerous tests. In addition, the authors also found that the electoral campaign of the populist party gave rise to anti-Turkish sentiments, and that Turkish citizens were likely to leave the respective municipalities.

“Understanding populism is also key to understand the emergence of often seemingly irrational economic policy. This work is of great significance because it provides evidence of how historical events, which, in theory, have no relevance for today, can be misused by populist parties,” said Professor Friedrich Heinemann, head of the ZEW Research Department “Corporate Taxation and Public Finance”, explaining the jury’s decision. “The empirical findings show how these campaigns can fuel animosities between different demographic groups. They also highlight the political and economic importance of understanding and reflecting historical events in order to ensure peaceful coexistence in Europe.”

About the Heinz König Young Scholar Award

The Heinz König Young Scholar Award is named after the late founding director of ZEW, Professor Heinz König, who died in 2002. The award recognises excellent empirical research papers by up-and-coming researchers. In keeping with Heinz König’s legacy, ZEW has no intention of adding yet another award to the multitude of prizes for established researchers, but instead awards the Heinz König Young Scholar Award to promote talented economists in the early stages of their career.

The 2019 Heinz König Young Scholar Award was presented during the 21st Summer Workshop for Young Economists. This year, the workshop focused on current issues and methods in public finance. The aim of the ZEW Summer Workshop is to provide young researchers with valuable experience and qualifications for their future careers. From a large number of submissions received this year, 15 researchers were chosen to present their papers at the ZEW Summer Workshop to be discussed with other young researchers and renowned economists.