Anna Pless

Anna Pless (Kulkova), PhD

I am a political sociologist specializing in quantitative analysis of values,  voting behavior, and public opinion polarization in Europe. In 2023, I defended my PhD thesis entitled “A Secularization of Cultural Politics? Changing Patterns of Cultural-Political Polarization and Voting Behavior in Western Europe, 1981-2008” at the Centre for Sociological Research, KU Leuven, Belgium. In my research, I mainly work with repeated cross-sectional survey data on Europe (i.e. EVS, ESS, ISSP) and use statistical analysis (i.e. multilevel modeling, latent class analysis).

Currently, I teach two practical courses on data analysis at the Bachelor program in Political Science and Sociology at KU Leuven. 


Ongoing research

Currently, I work on a project ‘Does Europe grow together? Convergence and divergence of political attitudes in Europe’ at Goethe University Frankfurt. In this project, we study the (changing) patterns of ideological polarization in EU member states. The paper ‘How polarized is Europe? Public opinion disagreement, issue alignment, and sorting across European countries’ (co-authored with Yassine Khoudja and Daniela Grunow, currently under review) uses multilevel regression modeling and the EVS-2017 data to analyze three types of polarization over five key issue domains (i.e. social inequality, immigration, EU integration, gender, and environment). This approach allows us to study which issue dimensions are the most or least polarizing and in which countries of Europe, therefore uncovering several geographic clusters of polarization. We demonstrate that overall levels of polarization are relatively low, and countries that score high on polarization as disagreement, usually score low on issue alignment and sorting. Whereas countries of Northern and Western Europe polarize over immigration (but not EU integration), countries of Southern and Eastern Europe are mostly divided over social inequality. 



"A Secularization of Cultural Politics? Changing Patterns of Cultural-Political Polarization and Voting Behavior in Western Europe, 1981-2017"

My PhD project focused on whether processes of secularization in Western Europe brought about changes within cultural politics, causing (1) polarization about moral traditionalism (between the religious and the secular) to be replaced by polarization about predominantly secular issues (between the high and low educated), and (2) led to a decrease in religious cultural voting (i.e., voting for either Christian-democratic or rather secular parties) and an increase in secular cultural voting (i.e., voting for new-leftist or rather new-rightist parties). Using multilevel modeling, I analyze EVS data for 20 West European countries in the period of 1981-2017.


Research Interests

My research interests revolve around the broad topics of values, voting behavior, polarization, and cleavage politics in Europe. I am primarily interested in the multidimensionality of European political spaces and study how different types of ideological divides (i.e. consisting of different types of issues) form under different conditions.