Dr Fanni Toth

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr Fanni Toth is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Insititute for Media and Creative Industries (IMCI).

Dr Fanni Toth is a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the project ‘Populist Backlash, Democratic Backsliding, and the Crisis of the Rule of Law in the European Union (POPBACK)’, working on the Hungarian case study. Fanni’s research interests concentrate on democratisation, political attitudes, political communication and populist authoritarianism, with a regional focus on Central and Eastern Europe.

Academic background

Fanni holds an ESRC-funded PhD in International Relations from the University of Nottingham. Her thesis examined the transformative power of the European Union on political attitudes in post-communist Europe, considering the impact on support for democracy and the EU. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the thesis concentrates on the attitudes of both elites and the general population, demonstrating that the EU has a measurable effect in changing perceptions, both within and outside of its borders. In addition, the thesis also reveals that Euroscepticism can act as a moderator on the EU’s positive impact, demonstrating the dangers of distrust in the EU on the consolidation of new democracies. The thesis was awarded the British Political Studies Association’s Lord Bryce Prize for best dissertation in comparative politics.

From 2019 to 2022, Fanni also worked as Research Associate for the ‘Illiberal Turn’ project at the Media and Communications Department at Loughborough University. This ESRC-funded project involved the first-ever systematic, comparative study of news consumption and political polarization in four Central and Eastern European countries – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia – at a time when the region is witnessing a resurgence of illiberal nationalism and a shift towards more openly authoritarian forms of government. The project used a novel multi-method analytical framework that combined survey data, digital tracking of media consumption, media diaries and qualitative interviews, designed to offer a holistic insight into the political implications of the changing news environment, and into its consequences for the processes of democratic backsliding and the rise of illiberal populism and nationalism in CEE. Fanni’s primary responsibilities on the project consisted of assisting with the quantitative data collection, analysis and management.

Fanni has also collaborated on other research projects, including the EU Competencies Project – a new index of the Europeanisation of policy based on an expert survey – and the British Academy and DfID Anti-Corruption Evidence Programme.

Current research and collaborations

Fanni Toth is working as Postdoctoral Research Associate on the NORFACE-funded project ‘Populist Backlash, Democratic Backsliding, and the Crisis of the Rule of Law in European Union (POPBACK)' and its work-package ‘Towards Communicative Authoritarian Populism in the EU?’ The aim of the project is to inform strategies to increase democratic resilience by studying the mechanisms ‘exclusionary populists’ use to increase their power by undermining the Rule of Law in the areas of law, the economy, and the media. The project also seeks to identify the ‘coping strategies’ societal actors use when faced with exclusionary populism.

Fanni is part of the work package focusing on the influences of populist backlash in the broader communications and media field, responsible for the Hungarian case study. The work package proposes a novel scale-sensitive approach, combining macro, meso and micro levelsof communicative authoritarian populism, to reveal the interconnectedness between the political and communication fields. The research focuses on five countries: Austria, Hungary, Turkey, Slovenia and Croatia. The macro level research includes a comparative analysis of media systems (ownership and control of media), meso level research focuses on journalistic practices in the sample countries, and the micro level research focuses on the analysis of mediated messages.

Areas of research expertise

  • Democratisation
  • Political attitudes
  • Political communication
  • Populism
  • Authoritarianism
  • Europeanisation
  • Public administration and public policy
  • Regional focus: Central and Eastern Europe
  • Quantitative and qualitative methods (survey design and analysis, regression methods, interviews, etc.)

Interests and activities

Fanni is currently a member of the International Communication Association (ICA) and the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA).

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