Welcome! I’m Mike, a postdoctoral researcher at the European University Viadrina. I work at the European New School of Digital Studies in the Chair of Digital Democracy.

My research interests include intra-party factions, candidate selection, and political communication. My forthcoming book examines U.S. intra-party factions in congressional primary elections in the twenty-first century and considers their contribution to trends of partisan polarization in Congress.

I also serve as the co-PI of the Digital Campaigns & Elections (DiCE) Lab: www.dicelab.eu


Book Project

Forthcoming (September 2024). Cambridge University Press.

Party Transformation in Congressional Primaries explains how the process through which candidates run for Congress fundamentally changed during the twenty-first century. These changes then reverberated in polarizing the parties in Congress. Primaries are commonly said to drive polarization because of the people who vote in them, but I show instead that the nomination process exacerbates polarization through the influence of elite party actors incentivizing candidates to adopt more ideological behavior.

You can pre-order the book here.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Blum, Rachel M., Mike Cowburn, and Seth Masket. Forthcoming “Who Decides? Media, Maga, Money, and Mentions in the 2022 Republican Primaries”. Political Research Quarterly.

Rosa, Christoph and Mike Cowburn. 2024.“Review of F-R-O-G Telegram Scraper”. Mobile Media & Communication. First View. 1–4.

Cowburn, Mike and Marius Sältzer. 2024. “Partisan Communication in Two-Stage Elections: The Effect of Primaries on Intra-Campaign Positional Shifts in Congressional Elections”. Political Science Research & Methods. First View. 1-20.

Cowburn, Mike and Curd B. Knüpfer. 2024. “The Emerging Fault Line of Alternative News: Intra-Party Division in Republican Representatives’ Media Engagement”. Party Politics. 30(2): 319-333.

Blum, Rachel M. and Mike Cowburn. 2023. “How Local Factions Pressure Parties: Activist Groups & Primary Contests in the Tea Party Era”. British Journal of Political Science. 54(1): 88-109.

Cowburn, Mike and Rebecca Kerr. 2023. “Inclusivity and Decentralisation of Candidate Selectorates: Factional Consequences for Centre-Left Parties in England, Germany, and the United States”. Political Research Quarterly. 72(1): 292-307.

Cowburn, Mike and Michael T. Oswald. 2020. “Legislator Adoption of the Fake News Label: Ideological Differences in Republican Representative Use on Twitter”. The Forum 18(3): 389–413.

Book Chapters

Cowburn, Mike. 2024. “Factional Change and Continuity in the 2022 House Primaries.” in Renata Duda and Maciej Turek (eds.) The Crossroads Election: European Perspectives on the 2022 Midterm Elections in the United States. Routledge.

Cowburn, Mike. 2022. “Experience Narratives and Populist Rhetoric in U.S. House Primaries” in Michael T. Oswald (ed.) The Palgrave Handbook of Populism. Palgrave Macmillan.

Cowburn, Mike. 2020. “The Transformation of the Congressional Primary” in Michael T. Oswald (ed.) Mobilization, Representation and Responsiveness in The American Democracy. Palgrave Macmillan.

In Progress

Gomez, Gabriel, Amanda Sahar D’Urso, and Mike Cowburn. “Hispanic Support for Donald Trump: In-Group Favoritism or Out-Group Animus?” [Revise & Resubmit].

Cowburn, Mike and Sean M. Theriault. “Preventative Polarization: Republican Senators’ Adaptation in the Tea Party Era” [Revise & Resubmit].

Cowburn, Mike and Meredith Conroy. “Where do Women Win Primaries? Candidate Gender, District Partisanship, and Congressional Nomination” [Under Review].

Cowburn, Mike, Ulrike Klinger, and Anders Olof Larsson. “Campaigning in the Age of Platforms: A Longitudinal Analysis of German Parties & Politicians” [Under Review].

Peißker, Antonia, Mike Cowburn, and Ulrike Klinger. “Disinformation Resilience in Backsliding Democracies: Media Capture & Civil Society in the Visegrád Group” [Under Review].

Knüpfer, Curd, Yunkang Yang, and Mike Cowburn. “Mouthpiece or Mobilizers? Right-Wing Media, Republican Elites, and ‘Critical Race Theory’” [Working Paper].

Dahn, Christina, Mike Cowburn, Marius Sältzer, and Ulrike Klinger. “Who’s Afraid of the Constitutional Court? The Discursive Effect of Banning Political Organizations” [Working Paper].

Commentary & Analysis

Cowburn, Mike. 2024. “The 2024 Elections: Primary Elections Show Just How Factionalized the Democratic and Republican Parties Have Become.” LSE United States Politics & Policy Blog

Cowburn, Mike, and Marius Sältzer. 2024. “Winning Primary Candidates Don’t Moderate their Political Positions, Increasing Polarization in Congress.” LSE United States Politics & Policy Blog.

Blum, Rachel M. and Mike Cowburn. 2023. “The Long Shadow of the Tea Party and the Republican Party’s Shift to the Right.” LSE United States Politics & Policy Blog.

Cowburn, Mike and Curd Knüpfer. 2023. “Far-Right News Sites have been Radicalizing Republican Politicians and are Dividing the Party.” LSE United States Politics & Policy Blog.

Cowburn, Mike. 2022. “The 2022 Midterms: A Turning Point for the Democratic and Republican Parties in Congress.” LSE United States Politics & Policy Blog.

Cowburn, Mike. 2020. “Not Just the Presidency: Congressional Primaries 2020.” Atlantische Akademie.

Cowburn, Mike. 2020. “Fostering Engagement in Primaries and Caucuses.” PolticalScienceNow.


2024Introduction to U.S. Politics
2024Politics & Football (Soccer)
2023/4Quantitative Methods for Social Science
2023/4Empirical Research Design & Writing in Social Science
2023Media & Democracy
2023Political Parties in the Digital Era
2021U.S. Political Parties in a Partisan Era
2019Polarization in US Politics
2018 & 2019 Teaching Assistant – Understanding North America (Political Science)


2019-2022Ph.D. Political Science
Graduate School of North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin – summa cum laude
2017-2019MA North American Studies
John-F-Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin – 1.0
2005-2008 BA Politics
University of Exeter – 2:1 Hons


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