Photo of Dr Luca Bernardi

Dr Luca Bernardi BA, MA, PhD

Lecturer in Politics Politics


Mental Health and Politics

One in three individuals in Europe experiences at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any given year (Wykes et al. 2015), with mood and anxiety disorders being at the top of the list. According to the WHO, depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide. One in six English adults suffer from a common mental disorder such as depression or anxiety, and more than one third of those seek mental health treatment (McManus et al. 2016). In the US, Kessler et al. (2003) report that the prevalence of individuals with major depressive disorders for lifetime was 16% (32.6- 35.1 million US adults) and for 12-month was 7% (13.1-14.2 million US adults). Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety have important implications for people's daily functioning as well as their cognitive and emotional processes. Politics is not an exception and this is confirmed by recent research on health and political behaviour which identified a depression-voting gap.

My research draws from political science and psychology and explores a wide range of questions around the relationship between mental health and politics. More specifically, I am interested in whether and how common mental health conditions - in particular, depression - affect the way sufferers perceive and engage with and in politics, how they evaluate political objects, how they make political decisions, and whether differences in political attitudes exist. In addition, I am also interested in the link between mental health and political representation. Whenever I can, the titles of my research are inspired by my music taste (and I am glad my brilliant coauthors have never protested).

Here is some of my current research:

2020 - Depression and attitudes to change in referendums: The case of Brexit (OnlineView in the European Journal of Political Research, with Rob Johns)
Public attention: BBC Radio 4 Documentary 'Do voters need therapy?' (
Blog post University of Liverpool: Depression, status quo bias and the Brexit referendum (
Blog post ECPR's The Loop: Brexit and depression: the politics of mental health (

2020 - Depression and political predispositions: Almost blue? (OnlineFirst in Party Politics)

- Mental health and political representation: A roadmap (under review)

- Down but not yet out: Depression, political efficacy and voting (under review, with Mikko Mattila, Achillefs Papageorgiou, and Lauri Rapeli)

- Depression and the gender gap in political interest (under review, with Christopher Ojeda and Claudia Landwehr)

- Is it really so bad? Depression, negativity bias and political evaluations (conference paper, with Rob Johns)

- Never let me down? Depression symptoms reduce the effect of political habits on vote choice (conference paper, with Guillem Rico and Eva Anduiza)

- Kind of blue: Unpacking left-right to understand the policy preferences of individuals with depressive symptoms (work in progress)

From the two COVID-19 projects I am the PI of here is some of our ongoing research:

- The Syrian Refugee Mental Health Panel Study: The COVID-19 Report (with Ozge Zihnioglu and Ian H. Gotlib)

- The bidirectional effect of COVID-19 life changes on the mental health of Syrian refugees in Turkey (with Ozge Zihnioglu and Ian H. Gotlib)

- A cognitive theory of depression and political attitudes (with Ian H. Gotlib)

- COVID-19, mental health, and political support (with Ian H. Gotlib)

Public Opinion and Public Policy

My first academic love was with how political competition influences government responsiveness to public opinion. My PhD dissertation investigated how electoral incentives - such as government vulnerability in the polls and electoral proximity - condition whether governments respond to public opinion's priorities and preferences. I am grateful to my PhD supervisor Prof Laura Morales for giving me the incredible opportunity to undertake this research within her ERC-funded ResponsiveGov project. Here you find some of the published and ongoing research on the topic. As you never forget your first love, stay tuned.

2020 - The Public, the Protester, and the Bill: Do Legislative Agendas Respond to Public Opinion Signals? (Accepted for publication in the Journal of European Public Policy, with Daniel Bischof and Ruud Wouters)
Public attention: Article recommended by the Comparative Agendas Project (

2018 - The effects of the Fukushima disaster on nuclear energy debates and policies: a two-step comparative examination (Environmental Politics, with Maarja Lühiste, Laura Morales, and Daniel Bischof)

2018 - Policy Responsiveness and Electoral Incentives: A (Re)assessment (Political Behavior)

2018 - From popularity to vulnerability: An application to dynamic representation in coalition governments (Party Politics)

The Effectiveness of Online and Offline Protest and Advocacy on Policy Change (conference paper, with Louisa Parks and Laura Morales)

Voters' Responsiveness to Parties' Policy Rhetoric and Action

If you are a young researcher and you are evaluating the pros and cons of spending a research stay in another institution my impartial advice would be: do it and choose wisely! Not only it can be such an enriching experience, but you can get the chance to start incredible collaborations and friendships with amazing academics and human beings. This is what happened to me and my research visiting at the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Davis with Prof James Adams. Almost all the research that is reported here is the product of such incredible collaboration.

N.d. Party Policy, Issue Ownership, and Their Electoral Consequences: The Advantages of Shifting to the Right (Under review, with James Adams, Lawrence Ezrow and Zeynep Somer-Topcu)

2020 The Simplest Government Heuristic of All: Citizens Infer that Governing Parties are Pro-European Union (Forthcoming in Comparative Political Studies, with James Adams and C. Michelle Phillips)

2019 - Social Welfare Policy Outputs and Governing Parties' Left-Right Images: Do Voters Respond? (Accepted for publication in the Journal of Politics, with James Adams and Christopher Wlezien)

2019 - A problem with empirical studies of party policy shifts: Alternative measures of party shifts are uncorrelated (European Journal of Political Research, with James Adams, Lawrence Ezrow, Oakley Gordon, Tzu-Ping Liu, and C. Michelle Phillips)

2019 - Governing Coalition Partners’ Images Shift in Parallel but Do Not Converge (Journal of Politics, with James Adams)

2019 - Does Government Support Respond to Governments’ Social Welfare Rhetoric or their Spending? An Analysis of Government Support in Britain, Spain and the United States (British Journal of Political Science, with James Adams)
Public attention: Article recommended by the Comparative Agendas Project (

2017 - Challenges of political participation and intra-party democracy: Bittersweet symphony from party membership and primary elections in Italy (Acta Politics, with Giulia Sandri and Antonella Seddone)

Research Grants

The consequences of Covid-19 responses on mental health and political attitudes


July 2020 - September 2021