Research Interests

I study democratic challenges that arise from profound societal change: global migration and religious diversity, free speech in the digital age, the rural-urban divide in politics, as well as the legacies of civil war and sexual violence. This research combines an interest in empirical democracy research, quantitative political methodology and evidence-based public policy.


DFG Research Group FOR 5173 “Reconfiguration and Internalization of Social Structure (RISS)”

Profound change in social structure has repercussions for social and political orientations. Social scientists have documented rising political alienation and polarization as well as the surfacing of new cleavages that challenge existing systems of resource allocation and representation. Relating these trends to underlying shifts in social structure poses a critical puzzle. How can we reconcile the notion of a dissolving ‘individualized’ social structure or the end of a ‘politicized’ social structure with humans’ propensity to attach themselves to groups and with current social and political conflicts? Social structural change and its connection to social and political orientations is more complex than research has commonly acknowledged. A classic notion holds that the social and political cohesion of a society is best served when its social structure is characterized by ‘cross-cutting cleavages’ where individuals hold multiple overlapping social positions. Yet, this notion fails to account for the fact that after decades of social mobility and diversification we see less, not more system-stabilizing orientations in advanced economies. The RISS research unit brings together scholars of social structure with political sociologists and proposes a fresh view. Whereas the social structure has changed dramatically, it retains its power to shape the life and orientations of individuals. What we witness is not a dissolution, but a reconfiguration of social structure and a corresponding internalization of newly emerging social positions and group memberships. As former socio-structural dimensions lose their orientating and conflictive force, new dimensions take their place. In order to grasp the social and political transformation of our times, we need to take a closer look at these new social structures and understand how they shape the views, beliefs and preferences of individuals. The key to this understanding is to view social structure as fundamentally multidimensional where numerous social positions combine in intricate ways. Scholars have focused on single dimensions including education, socio-economic status, gender relations as well as migration and ethnic diversity. What we lack, is an understanding of how changes in these dimensions combine to produce reconfigurations in the current social structure. We also need to grasp how individuals internalize and make sense of these reconfigurations, especially new combinations of formerly disconnected social positions. And we must learn how these changes affect individual and collective behaviors and outcomes. We aim to establish a multidimensional conceptualization of social-structural change and develop innovative empirical strategies to capture this complexity. The promise of our approach lies in the ability to build richer theories of how the social structure shapes individual and collective orientations and outcomes and, ultimately, in a better understanding of our troubled times.

Funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) 2021-2025 (Speaker: Daniela Grunow, Goethe University Frankfurt, Co-Speaker: Richard Traunmüller,  University of Mannheim)

RISS 1: “CoRE – Conceptualizing Reconfiguration for Empirical Research” (TR 1334/5-1, with D. Grunow & Y. Khoudhja)

RISS 8: “The Effect of Social Structure, Discrimination and Violence on Muslims in Germany” (TR 1334/6-1, with C. Ruhe & S. Roßteutscher)


Immigration, Integration, and Naturalization: New Immigrants, Policy Decisions and Citizens’ Responses

The way migration flows and immigrant integration are regulated has become of crucial interest in both scholarly and public debates. While there is now ample research on the general question of whether more or less migrants should be allowed to access one’s country we still know very little about how specific regulations are perceived by citizens and how they impact on their attitudes and behaviours and thus, ultimately, their acceptance of newcomers. This project aims at providing evidence-based answers to the following question: What are the consequences of immigration, integration and naturalization policies for citizens’ attitudes and actual behaviour related to the acceptance of new immigrant groups? In order to reach our intended research goals we will design a survey including different survey experiments which will be conducted among the general native population in Germany. The experiments will allow us to identify the causal impact of policies on attitudes and behaviour in a more thorough way. To get a more nuanced picture of policy effects we will confront respondents with policies by means of survey vignettes. Finally, to get a grasp of the rational interests of ordinary citizens we will measure the effects of policies on attitudes towards migrants as a function of the degree of agreement with these policies and as a function of whether these policies change the status quo for natives (or not).

Funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) 2019-2021 (TR 1334/3-1, with Marc Helbling, Bamberg/WZB)


Traunmüller, R. & Helbling, M. (2022). Backlash to Policy Decisions: How Citizens React to Immigrants’ Rights to Demonstrate. Political Science Research & Methods 10(2): 279 – 297.

Helbling, M., Jäger, F. & Traunmüller, R. (2022). Muslim Bias or Fear of Fundamentalist Religion? A Survey Experiment in Five Western European Democracies. Research & Politics

Helbling, M., Maxwell, R., Munzert, S. & Traunmüller, R. (2022). Healthcare Chauvinism? The Immigrant-Native Boundary For Accessing Covid-19 Treatment. (Revise & Resubmit)

Helbling, M., Maxwell, R. & Traunmüller, R. (2022). Numbers, Selectivity and Rights: The Conditional Nature of Immigration Policy Preferences. (Under review)

Helbling, M., Jäger, F., Maxwell, R. & Traunmüller, R. (2022). The (In)Consistency of Immigration Policy Preferences. (Under review)

Ivarsflaten, E., Helbling, M., Sniderman, P. M. & Traunmüller, R. (2022). Gender Equality and Gestures of Respect. A Research Note on Open and Closed Conflict of Values.


The Rural-Urban Divide in Europe (RUDE)

Rising populism and polarization, coupled with declining democratic legitimacy, all point toward a crisis in European democracies. This crisis has a regional dimension: a political and perhaps cultural divide between rural and urban areas. The project examines whether and how urban-rural residency is related to divides in legitimacy beliefs, social identities, perceptions of injustice and threat, political and social attitudes and political behavior of European citizens. It explores “Democratic governance in a turbulent age” from different thematic angles. First, it deals with shifting identities and their consequences for democratic governance and political representation. Stable cleavages only emerge when struggles for identity are accompanied by perceptions of social inequality and unfair resource distribution. Second, it examines the role played by globalization: increasing rural-urban economic divides create social status threats which exacerbate rural-urban political divides. The project will combine a broad comparative study of all European countries with an in-depth analysis of five established European democracies. The project will result in the provision of significant new evidence on rural-urban disparities in European politics, which will allow us to examine the consequences of – and cures for – the current crisis of democracy, thereby engaging both academic and policymaking audiences.

Funded by the sixth NORFACE transnational programme on Democratic Governance in a Turbulent Age,  2020-2023 (with Sigrid Roßteutscher, Frankfurt, Kathrin Ackermann, Heidelberg, Chris Claassen, Glasgow, Markus Freitag, Berne, Guillemo Rico, Barcelona, and Sonja Zmerli, Grenoble )



The Politics of Free Speech and Hate Speech Regulation

In a world that is becoming increasingly culturally diverse and digitally connected, the regulation of ‘hate speech’ on social media has grown into a central concern.This project takes recent debates as an opportunity to study what citizens think about the limits of free speech and how they balance the goals of freedom, group equality, and the prevention of harm. What do citizens deem acceptable in public political discourse? What preferences do citizens have for the regulation of free speech? What are relevant determinants of these preferences? Coming to terms with public sentiment towards these issues requires grappling with a host of challenging methodological problems. Existing studies fail to address the problem of social desirability bias. Given the sensitive nature of the topic and its involving of minority groups, respondents may not be willing to tell the truth about what they find acceptable. Second, previous studies are unable to elicit the context-dependence and conditionality of preferences for hate speech regulation. What is acceptable may not only depend on who says what to whom, but also on the specific context in which the utterance was made. To address these issues, we plan to implement a set of innovative, survey-based experiments and items.

Partly funded by Forschungsinstitut Gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt (FGZ)/Research Institute Social Cohesion (RISC),  2020-2022 

Partly funded by Facebook Research – Content Governance RFP ,  2020-2021 (with Simon Munzert, Hertie School) 


Revers, M. & Traunmüller, R. (2020). Is Free Speech in Danger on University Campus? Evidence from a Most Likely Case. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 72(3): 471-497.

Traunmüller, R. & Revers, M. (2021). Freedom of Expression at the University: Inaccuracies and Straw Men. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 73(1): 137-146.

Villa, P.-I., Traunmüller, R. & Revers, M. (2021). Lässt sich ‘Cancel Culture’ empirisch belegen? Impulse für eine pluralistische Fachdebatte. Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 71(46): 26-33.

Menzner, J. & Traunmüller, R. (2022). Subjective Freedom of Speech: Why Do Citizens Think They Cannot Speak Freely? Politische Vierteljahresschrift (Forthcoming) [Pre-print

Traunmüller, R. (2022). Testing the ‘Campus Cancel Culture’ Hypothesis (Work in progress

Traunmüller, R. & Revers, M. (2020). Who May Say What, When and How? A Survey Experiment on Free Speech Norms. (Work in progress)

Traunmüller, R., Munzert, S., Barberá, P., Guess, A., & Yang, J.H. (2019). The Effect of Hate Speech Regulation on Self-Censorship. (Work in progress) [Preregistration Plan]

Munzert, S., Traunmüller, R.,  Barberá, P., Guess, A., & Yang, J.H. (2019). What Should We Be Allowed to Post? Citizens’ Preferences for Online Hate Speech Regulation. (Work in progress) [Preregistration Plan]


The Democratic Consequences of Wartime Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is widespread in war and has been documented to varying degrees in armed conflicts around the globe. Yet, the problem of underreporting remains a critical challenge in the study of wartime sexual violence, including its prevalence, risk factors, and consequences. To overcome this challenge, we turn to an unobtrusive method known as “list experiment” that has been shown to effectively elicit attitudes and behaviors that are fraught with problems of social desirability bias, shame or fear of repression. Equipped with this new methodology, we are in the position to study the democratic consequences of this particular form of violence in terms of its impact on civic engagement, political participation, and generalized inter-group trust in post-conflict societies. This research contributes to the recent interest in micro-studies of political violence and the democratic prospects of civil war countries.


Traunmüller, Richard, Sara Kijewski and Markus Freitag (2019). The Silent Victims of Sexual Violence During War: Evidence from a List Experiment in Sri Lanka. Journal of Conflict Resolution 63(9): 2015-2042. [Preprint, Online Appendix]

Koos, C. & Traunmüller, R. (2022). The social and political consequences of wartime sexual violence: New evidence from list experiments in three conflict-affected populations. WIDER Working Paper 2022/11. Helsinki: UNU-WIDER.

Gonzalez, Belen and Richard Traunmüller (2020). The Political Consequences of Wartime Sexual Violence: Evidence from a List Experiment. [Working Paper] (Revise & Resubmit)



Using MRP to Study the Democratic Behavior of Religious Minorities in Europe

Currently, I am developing a project (together with Christopher Claassen, University of Glasgow) which proposes methods of model-based population inference to produce reliable estimates of the civic integration and democratic behavior of religious minorities in Europe. In particular, the project presents the method of multilevel regression with post-stratification (MRP) as a viable solution for the many data limitations in the study of religious diversity. MRP is the current ‘gold standard’ in the estimation of political preferences in small geographic units. The proposed project will adapt this approach and leverage its methodological promises in a completely new field of application: the study of small socio-demographic sub-groups.


Claassen, C. & Traunmüller, R. (2018). Improving and Validating Survey Estimates of Religious Demography Using Bayesian Multilevel Models with Poststratification. Sociological Methods & Research Online First: DOI: 10.1177/0049124118769086 [Preprint]

Ellerbrock, S., Traunmüller, R. & Claassen, C. (2018). Estimating the Opinion of Religious Minorities Using Bayesian Multilevel Models with Poststratification. (Work in progress)

Neunhoeffer, M. & Traunmüller, R. (2019). Generative Adversial Imputation Nets for Small Area Estimation of Political Preferences. (Work in progress)


Book Project: Data Visualization for the Social Sciences

The social sciences are currently witnessing an exploding interest in data visualization techniques. This book project (under contract with Cambridge University Press in the series Methodological Tools in the Social Sciences edited by Paul Kellstedt and Guy Whitten) is intended to provide readers with a thorough introduction to the state of the art and best practice of modern data visualization from a social science perspective.

The book will be divided in three parts. Part I on the “Principles and Foundations of Data Visualization” lays the theoretical foundation of data visualization and places it in the context of more general discussions of social science methodology. Key principles are derived from a thorough understanding of graphical perception and analytic design. Part II on the “Key Tools and Methods of Data Visualization” discusses a broad array of visual methods and graphical formats that are effective in solving particular data analytic problems: making visual comparisons, visualizing time trends and correlations as well as multivariate data structures and spatial data. Part III on the “New Developments and Extensions of Data Visualization” introduces recent advances in data visualization that greatly expand the utility of visual methods: the interactive visual exploration of data, visual inference to protect against over-interpretation of random patterns, and the visualization of statistical models.

The book is highly applied in nature and emphasizes the practical aspects of data visualization in the social sciences. To illustrate the concepts and methods, examples and data from the social sciences will be used throughout the book. Example codes to reproduce the visualizations in the book will be provided on a dedicated web page.

Related papers:

Traunmüller, R. (2020). Visualizing Data in Political Science. In: L. Curini & R. Franzese (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Research Methods in Political Science and International Relations. Sage. [Preprint]

Traunmüller, R. (2019). Datenvisualisierung für Exploration und Inferenz. In: Wagemann C., Goerres A., Siewert M. (eds.) Handbuch Methoden der Politikwissenschaft. Springer Reference Sozialwissenschaften. Springer VS, Wiesbaden.

Traunmüller, R. (2018). Visual Inference for Political Research. [Working Paper]