Why do politicians (fail to) listen to public
democracy, politicians should always take public opinion into account. In
actual practice, however, this only happens selectively. Prof. Stefaan Walgrave
(UAntwerp) plans to conduct a large European research project to map the
the European Commission allocates large budgets to scientific research. One way
of doing this is by awarding grants to researchers at different stages of their
careers, through the European Research Council (ERC). There are also Advanced
Grants, which are reserved for established research leaders.
University of Antwerp researchers have received ERC grants in recent years.
Stefaan Walgrave, a professor of political sciences, has now received an ERC
Advanced Grant for the second time. 'Being awarded an ERC grant twice is very
special, let alone in the Advanced Grants segment', says Kristof Geeraerts, who
works in UAntwerp’s Research Department. 'This is a testament to Professor
Walgrave's expertise and groundbreaking work in his field of study.'
In his new
research project, Stefaan Walgrave will focus on how politicians deal with
public opinion. 'A democracy presupposes that policymakers respond to what the
general population cares about', he explains. 'However, previous research has
shown that the link between what people want and the policies they get is selective.
Responsiveness varies greatly depending on the issue, public preference, the
country and the time.
Walgrave wants to find out why politicians’ response to public opinion is so
fragmented. In order to do this, he will be conducting a large-scale
comparative study in eight countries with diverse electoral and party systems:
Australia, Belgium, Canada, Israel, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.
'The project aims to examine how politicians appraise public opinion. For
instance, do politicians think that people have carefully thought-out opinions,
or that their opinions are mostly driven by self-interest? By examining how
politicians assess public opinion – be it positively or negatively – and how
that assessment ultimately affects their actions and policies, this research
may lead to a shift in the way people think about democratic representation.'
research project was named POLEVPOP, which is short for 'How politicians
evaluate public opinion'. Over a period of five years, the
European Research Council will provide funding to the tune of 2.5 million