Research Group on Elections and Political Citizenship

Fields | Projects and contracts |

Research directions

Study of Elections and Direct Democratic Votes

The analysis of elections and voting is one of the traditional pillars of political science and one of the GREC's strengths. Its members study participation, abstention and voting by mobilising classical theories and electoral sociology, as well as more recent models derived from neighbouring disciplines, such as psychology and political communication. Research at the GREC aims to open up the analysis of electoral behaviour by integrating it into a broader reflection on the actors involved in the electoral process, whether they are partisans (political parties, candidates, etc.) or non-partisans (interest groups, movements, the media, etc.) Accordingly, the studies carried out at the GREC place critical emphasis on the context of campaigns, the game of political alliances, and the new tools deployed in electoral campaigns. To seize these relations in all their complexity, the centre sees itself as a platform for the exchange and development of new practical methodologies (such as online surveys, social media analysis and online longitudinal studies). The Select and Voto surveys conducted under the responsibility of FORS are another important resource available to members of the GREC.

Political Contention

Since the 1990s, the study of social movements has become central to sociology and political science, whether in the US or in Europe. Yet this upsurge of interest also has a perverse side: sub-disciplines in the social sciences tend towards hyper-specialisation and the development of isolated pockets of knowledge. It seems essential to reopen these enclaves if more elaborate mobilisation theories are to be developed. It is with this in mind that the members of the GREC work on different aspects of protest mobilisation, in particular: the emergence and development of political protests; processes of engagement, maintenance and disengagement of activists; or the biographical, political and cultural consequences of political protests. The centre is also interested in opening up new avenues of research, on political violence, radicalisation and cyber-activism, for example.

Political Activism

The GREC also works on the phenomenon of adhesion. Citizens in western democracies participate in the public and political sphere, through political parties, protest organisations, unions, pressure groups, or charities. Literature on the topic tends to isolate the different forms of adhesion, whereby scientific knowledge is again compartmentalized. But are the processes of engagement so distinct from one another? What factors allow us to understand the specific choices behind a chosen sphere of mobilisation? Does adhesion to political parties, movements, unions and charities stem from specific conceptions of political citizenship? Or from particular personality traits? And what do we make of those citizens who are engaged in multiple causes? Who are they? How do they conceive of their roles as citizens? Such questions allow us to do away with the partitions that structure studies of political and social activism. Comparative researches that offer intersecting perspectives on activism therefore hold a prime place within the activities of the GREC.

Formation and Transformation of Opinions

The GREC also investigates the formation and transformation of values, attitudes and opinions. The members of the GREC wish to develop the study of these processes in the long and short term. In the long term, the analysis of longitudinal survey data is precious for understanding the changes or stability of individual attitudes, as well as the restructuring of divides and political anchorages at the aggregate level. In the short term, setting up experimental devices will allow us to approach certain aspects of the formation of opinions that are usually difficult to access through survey research, such as the genesis and empirical measurement of behaviours and socially "sensitive" attitudes (racism, homophobia, electoral abstention) or decision-making under media pressure (agenda-setting, priming, framing, etc.) This field of research at the GREC is evidently complementary to that of the study of elections and direct democratic votes.

Longitudinal Study of Political Practices

Research on political behaviour, whether it is linked to institutional or protest participation, is somewhat like a photography exhibition. Amidst these images taken at a given moment, some are interesting and instructive. Yet they remain snapshots, whereas political behaviours, and the phenomenon of political citizenship more generally, should be understood as a continuous process. Adhesion, political participation and disengagement but also the consequences of engagement are processes that unfold throughout the life of a citizen. Despite this, longitudinal studies are still rare in the research fields covered at the GREC. For this reason, the centre not only seeks to promote the research based on longitudinal data (like the Panel Suisse de Ménages/Swiss Household Panel), but also to develop investigative panels where political practices can be better understood.

Studies of Populism

Populism is heavily present in contemporary western democracies. The phenomenon is not recent but has been reinforced by the political and economic crises sweeping the western world. Nationalism, regionalism and populism today constitute key research fields at the GREC. What are the opportunities for action and election of the actors behind such movements? What alliances do they develop to enter office and develop their policies? Who are their fervent opponents capable of blocking their ascent in the public sphere? How are they structured? Do they transform following political and electoral successes? Who are their supporters and what are the reasons behind their support? Such questions drive research at the GREC.

Political Altruism

Many citizens enter the public sphere and politics to defend the interests and rights of others. Mobilisation to defend migrants, human rights, the climate, peace processes and the rights of those in vulnerable positions are just a few examples where collective actors and citizens are engaged for others, or more globally, for the common good. What are these movements of solidarity? Who are the citizens engaged in them and why? What is the impact of their actions? These are some of the questions that arouse our interest and which we wish to develop within the GREC. Questions linked to altruism and pro-social actions have always interested researchers, over a broad disciplinary range, from philosophy to biology, and including sociology, psychology, economics, and more recently neuroscience. For over a decade, research in this field has enjoyed a surge in interest. Such work allows us to question and redefine the individualist paradigm and helps explain how both individual behaviour and collective action develop in our societies.

Political Citizenship

Beyond elections, protest and activism, the GREC is also interested in questions linked to political citizenship. How do collective actors and individuals develop relations with citizenship? How do they perceive the political sphere, its institutions, elites, civil society actors, and democracy more broadly? What are the shared understandings of political citizenship and the role of the citizen fashioned in distinct communities? How are they forged and transformed? Likewise, the GREC is interested in the politics of everyday life that goes beyond voting, protest or collective adhesion. Instances of politicisation aiming at social change include recycling, the boycott of products, the adoption of vegetarianism, sustainable consumption and the rejection of violent practices in raising children. These practices are multiplying in a world that is intent on reimagining social, economic, ecological and political models. However, few studies have as yet sought to assess this aspect of political citizenship and its impacts on society. The GREC therefore wishes to develop research in this field.

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