Prof. Dr. Stefanie Walter
Prof. Dr. Stefanie Walter


My research concentrates on the fields of international and comparative political economy, with a particular focus on globalization, international cooperation, and financial crises with a particular interest in the distributional conflict between the winners and losers of different aspects of the globalization of finance, production, and labor. My most recent reserach examines how voters, governments and international dynamics interact to create or mitigate a backlash against globalization.


The Mass Politics of Disintegration (DISINTEGRATION)

ERC Consolidator Grant


In the past few years, there has been a growing popular backlash against international institutions. Examples include the 2015 Greek bailout referendum, the 2016 Brexit referendum, or the 2016 election of a US President seemingly determined to withdraw US support from various international treaties. The implications of these mass-based disintegration efforts reach far beyond the countries in which they originate. First, the disintegration process is shaped by how remaining member states respond to one member’s bid to unilaterally change or terminate the terms of an existing international agreement. Second, mass-based disintegration bids pose considerable political contagion risks by encouraging disintegrative tendencies in other countries. Unfortunately, our theoretical tools to understand such international disintegration processes are underdeveloped. DISINTEGRATION therefore conducts a broad, systematic, and comparative inquiry into the mass politics of disintegration that pays particular attention to reactions in the remaining member states.


DISINTEGRATION explores three main research questions:
1) PUBLIC OPINION. When and how does one country’s mass-based disintegration experience encourage or deter demands for disintegration in other countries?
2) DOMESTIC DISCOURSE. How are the contagion effects of mass-based disintegration transmitted through domestic elites and domestic discourse?
3) DISINTEGRATION NEGOTIATIONS. How do the remaining member states respond to one member state’s mass-based disintegration bid?


DISINTEGRATION’s main objective is to generate a theory of mass-based disintegration on the basis of a broad, systematic, and comparative inquiry. Rather than examining why voters opt for disintegration , it takes one state’s mass-based withdrawal decision as the starting point and examines how it reverberates across the remaining member states. The project pays particular attention to the role of contagion effects, the dilemmas and incentives they generate for policymakers, and the dynamics they produce in the international arena.


Empirically, DISINTEGRATION exploits the unique research opportunity that two ongoing mass-based disintegration processes offer: the Brexit process and an upcoming Swiss referendum aimed at terminating a Swiss-EU bilateral treaty. It undertakes large-scale multi-method data collection that exploits the research opportunities offered by two ongoing mass-based disintegration processes: the Brexit negotiations and an upcoming Swiss referendum aimed at terminating a Swiss-EU bilateral treaty. In terms of methodology, it combines public opinion research, text-as-data-methods, and comparative case studies.  DISINTEGRATION’s main objective is to develop a much-needed theory of mass-based disintegration that helps us understand the transnational dynamics that unfold between governments, political elites and the mass public when one member state attempts to unilaterally withdraw from an international agreement on the basis of widespread popular support.


This project has received funding from the University of Zurich and the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme grant agreement No 817582 (ERC Consolidator Grant DISINTEGRATION).

Related Output and Work in Progress:

For a full list, see



Inequality, group identities and political demands

Project with Tarik ABou-Chadi, Silja Häusermann and Tabea Palmtag, funded by the UZH URPP Equality of Opportunity

Structural inequalities between social classes, men and women, as well as ethnic minority and majority groups do not translate directly into politically relevant and salient conflictive divides. Hence, we need to understand the processes of politicization of inequality, in order to establish a link between inequalities and democratically sustainable policies supposed to address them. Therefore, this sub-project studies how increasing economic inequalities translate into the political sphere in three regards: (i) how structural economic inequalities and political narratives drive changing perceptions of inequalities, as well as changing political group identities among voters; (ii) how these group identities shape political demands in terms of social policy, taxation and education policy; and (iii) how group identities and policy demands affect the electoral sphere in terms of voting behavior.



Globalization and Individual Policy and Partisan Preferences

This  project investigates how individuals’ exposure to global competition influences their feeling of economic security and a wide range of policy preferences, and how the emergence of new conflict lines between beneficiaries and losers of globalization changes the constituencies of political parties.I  argue that globalization has very heterogenous effects, which depend both on individuals' exposure to global competition and their factor-endowments. This suggests that even within the same industry, exposure to global competition can be harmful to some people, but not to others. In developed countries, high-skilled individuals in exposed industries or occupations can be characterized as “globalization winners,” because they can sell their skills to global markets. In contrast, low-skilled individuals working in an exposed sector face serious problems. The goods they produce are most likely to be substituted with imports from low-wage countries and their jobs are the most likely to be moved abroad, so that they can be classified as “globalization losers.” Individuals working in sheltered industries or occupations constitute an intermediate category. I use individual-level data to test the implications of these differentiated effects of globalization.


Output and Work in Progress:

Micro-Level Consequences of Financial Crises

This project examines how individuals respond to financial crises. It includes studies on the effect of foreign currency lending on individual political opinions in Eastern Europe, survey-research in Greece, and individual-level studies on public opinion during the 2008-10 Latvian financial and economic crisis. In a collaborative effort with colleagues from the University of York, Oxford University and IE University, we have run several surveys of public opinion on crisis management and the euro in Greece (July 2015, September 2015, December 2015, and February 2017).

Output and Work in Progress:




Distributional Conflicts and the Politics of Adjustment in the Eurozone Crisis
Project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation


The euro crisis has turned into the most serious challenge the European Union  has ever had to face. Although the causes of the crisis are increasingly well understood, the politics of the crisis are not. This project aims at shedding light on three important puzzles that existing research has not yet been able to resolve. First, why have some governments been able to implement far-reaching reforms, whereas reform progress has been rather spotty in other crisis countries? Second, why have some countries seen serious political turmoil, while others have experienced less public and political opposition? And finally, why have surplus countries been willing to bail out deficit countries, but have varied in their willingness to adjust their own economic policies in an effort the ease the adjustment burden on the South?  
The project argues that these differences can be explained by the variation in societies’ vulnerabilities to different types of policy responses to the crisis. The argument builds on the insight that the euro crisis is, at its root, a balance-of-payments crisis. The imbalances that underlie such crises can be resolved either through significant economic policy adjustments both in the (peripheral) deficit or the (northern) surplus countries, or be addressed by providing external financing to deficit countries. I argue that the resulting distributive struggles surrounding the politics of the euro crisis in surplus and deficit countries are distinct but related, and should therefore be analyzed in a unified framework. The chances for swift and substantial adjustment are enhanced when politically influential interest groups exhibit a low vulnerability to at least one type of adjustment. In contrast, in contexts where significant parts of society are vulnerable to any adjustment, crisis politics is very contentious. Surplus countries with such a vulnerability profile attempt to push most of the adjustment burden onto deficit countries. In return, they are willing to provide external financing to deficit countries, but this generates conflict about on who should bear this financial burden. Since deficit countries are in a weaker position to push adjustment costs onto surplus countries, the distributional conflicts there revolve around how the cost of adjustment is to be distributed among different societal groups.
Empirically, the project examines how vulnerability profiles affect domestic crisis politics and policies on two levels of analysis, the interest-group and the national level. It uses a mixed-methods research design that combines two sets of qualitative comparative case studies of the domestic politics of the euro crisis in surplus and deficit countries, respectively, with a quantitative analysis of national vulnerability profiles and crisis politics in a wider set of countries. The overarching goal of the project is to generate an encompassing picture of the distributional politics of the euro crisis and a better understanding of the constraints under which European policymakers operate in their attempts to solve the crisis.
More information can be found here.


Output and Work in Progress:



Crisis Management and Crisis Politics in the Global Financial Crisis and the Euro Crisis

This project analyzes policy responses, crisis politics, and distributive outcomes of national crisis management towards the global financial crisis and the euro crisis.


Output and Work in Progress:


The Politics of Delayed Adjustment and Crisis

Why are some policymakers able to adjust their policies in response to deteriorating economic conditions, while other policymakers delay adjustment as long as possible, a policy path that typically ends with an economic crisis? This project examines this question by focusing on the area of exchange-rate policy, where delayed devaluations frequently end with a currency crisis. The project extends my research on exchange-rate politics and analyses how exchange-rate level preferences interact with institutions to shape monetary and exchange-rate policy outcomes. I am particularly interested in explaining time-inconsistencies in exchange-rate policymaking. The project examines how distributional and electoral concerns can create strong incentives for policymakers to delay adjustment as long as possible. I argue that these incentives are particularly strong when voters are very vulnerable to both exchange and interest rate adjustments. Major currency crashes are particularly likely when voters are highly exposed to exchange rate changes but even more vulnerable to internal adjustment policies, and when electoral incentives prevent timely reform.

This project was generously funded by the Fritz-Thyssen Foundation.


Output and Work in Progress:

  • Walter, Stefanie (2013): Financial Crises and the Politics of Macroeconomic Adjustment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Walter, Stefanie (2011). The Fiscal Policy Implications of Balance of Payments Imbalances. In:  Anheier, Helmut and Regina List  (eds.) Governance Challenges and Innovations: Financial and Fiscal Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 89-114.
  • Walter, Stefanie (2009). Interests and Incentives to Delay Adjustment: Why Policymakers Fail to Address Early Signs of Trouble and How They Respond to Crises. Paper presented at the 2009 APSA Annual Convention in Toronto, Canada, 3-6 September 2009.
  • Walter, Stefanie and Thomas D. Willett (2012). Delaying the Inevitable. A Political Economy Approach to Currency Defenses and Depreciation. Review of International Political Economy. 19(1): 114-39.


Micro-Level Consequences of the 2008/9 Financial Crisis in Germany

This project examined how the 2008/9 global financial and economic crisis affected the outcome of the German federal elections 2009. Based on insights from research on economic voting, it investigates three main issues. First, it examines how the geographically diverse impact on of the crisis on local labor markets and the regional economy affected individual voting behavior and voting outcomes at the constituency level. Second, it investigates how subjective economic evaluation affected individual electoral behavior. A third part of the project examines how voters assessed the government's anti-crisis policies, such as public guarantees for banks and the so-called Abwrackprämie, and studies whether and how these assessments affected vote intentions. The project employs a mix of quantitative data (survey data and electoral records) and qualitative data from semi-structured interviews.

Output and Work in Progress:


Explaining Policy Responses to Speculative Attacks. The Political Economy of Currency Crises.
Dissertation Project, 2003-2007

My dissertation examined the question why some governments devalue their exchange rate in response to speculative pressure, while others are willing to defend their currency at any cost. Employing both quantitative and qualitative methods, I found that political and institutional factors (such as interest group preferences, regime type, or elections) play an important role in determining currency crisis outcomes.


Output and Work in Progress:





Prof. Dr. Stefanie Walter

Institute for Political Science

University of Zurich

Affolternstr. 56

8050 Zurich



+41 44 634 5832

walter -at-

Twitter: @stefwalter__

Lehrstuhl homepage


I am now on bluesky:


My review article on "The Backlash against Globalization" published in the 2021 Annual Review of Political Science.


Catherine de Vries, Sara Hobolt and my contribution to the the 75th anniversary issue of International Organization is out:  "Politicizing International Cooperation. The Mass Public, Political Entrepreneurs, and Political Opportunity Structures"


Our book on "The Politics of Bad Options. Why the Eurozone Crisis has been so hard to resolve" (with Nils Redeker and Ari Ray) is out now at Oxford University Press! It compares the Euro crisis to previous crises, includes detailed analyses of interest group preferences and case studies of crisis politics in deficit and surplus countries. Data and replication material are available here.


Website for my ERC project on "The Mass Politics of Disintegration" (DISINTEGRATION):

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