Research team

Expertise

Expertise about political processes, mass media, elections and social movements.

Research Professor after obtaining ERC Advanced Grant (POLEVPOP). 01/01/2023 - 31/12/2026

Abstract

How politicians evaluate public opinion. In democracies, policies are expected to be responsive to public opinion—the policies decide upon should more or less reflect what the citizens prefer. Extant research showed that responsiveness is selective, though. It varies across issues, time and countries. Yet, how come policies vary in their responsiveness has not received a satisfying answer. During my ZAP-bof mandate I try to formulate and examine a novel answer to the puzzle why policy responsiveness varies. The core argument is that politicians evaluate public opinion and let their actions—in line with public opinion or going against it—depend on their appraisal of public opinion. When public opinion is evaluated negatively, it has no effect on what politicians do; that it is evaluated positively increases the chance that politicians act congruently. Politicians may, for example, consider citizens' opinion to be not very knowledgeable or selfish, or they may think that these opinions are not intensely held but are just superficial, or they may think just the opposite of course. Yet, politicians' appraisal of public opinion has been completely overlooked as a mechanism bringing about responsive representation. Considering it a core factor, I will exame three matters: (1) which criteria politicians use to appraise public opinion; (2) how, depending on the opinion content of the message, the channel through which the opinion is conveyed and the group from which it comes, concrete public opinion signals are evaluated; and, (3) which effects these evaluations have on politicians' political action. The central expectation is that public opinion is evaluated by politicians based on a consistent and common 'scoreboard'. For instance, opinion signals are rated based on their representativity and underlying public opinion is evaluated on its quality and its intensity. The project tackles these matters drawing on a comparative study in eight different countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Portugal, Switzerland, and Sweden). In two consecutive rounds of data gathering, a large sample of politicians is surveyed and interviewed, and they are subjected to a series of survey-embedded experiments. To put politicians' behavior in perspective, their answers are compared to parallel citizen surveys in all countries.

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

Study on impartiality of the public broadcaster VRT news coverage 2022-2025. VRM montoring 2021-2025 01/09/2022 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

The Flemish media and especially the VRT are expected to report impartially in their news and current affairs programmes. According to the Flemish coalition agreement, the VRT's news programs must be monitored for pluralism and neutrality. This study aims to do this by comparing the coverage of the VRT over time and with other media. We are relying on the experience of 18 years of news monitoring by the still ongoing Electronic News Archive (ENA). In concrete terms, the study consists of three parts: (1) An extensive reporting of actors and themes in the main news of Eén, in which the 7 pm VTM newscast will be taken as a point of comparison. (2) An extensive reporting of actors and themes in the current affairs programs on VRT. (3) The detailed coding of three cases (topics/events) in which all news on a wide range of platforms and media (not only VRT) is analyzed.

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

How politicians evaluate public opinion (POLEVPOP). 01/01/2022 - 31/12/2026

Abstract

In democracies, policies are expected to be responsive to public opinion. Extant research showed that responsiveness is selective. It varies across issues, time and countries. Yet, how come policies vary in their responsiveness has not received a satisfying answer. POLEVPOP formulates and examines a novel answer to the puzzle why policy responsiveness varies. Its core argument holds that politicians evaluate public opinion and let their actions—in line with public opinion or going against it—depend on their appraisal. When public opinion is evaluated negatively, it has no effect on what politicians do; that it is evaluated positively increases the chance that politicians act congruently. Politicians' appraisal of public opinion has been completely overlooked as a mechanism bringing about responsive representation. Considering it a core factor POLEVPOP examines three matters: (1) which criteria politicians use to appraise public opinion; (2) how, depending on the opinion content of the message, the channel through which the opinion is conveyed and the group from which it comes, concrete public opinion signals are evaluated; and, (3) which effect these evaluations have on politicians' political action. The central expectation is that public opinion is evaluated by politicians based on a consistent and common scoreboard. For instance, opinion signals are rated based on their representativity and underlying public opinion is evaluated on its quality and its intensity. The project tackles these matters drawing on a comparative study in eight different countries (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Portugal, Switzerland, and Sweden). In two consecutive rounds of data gathering, a large sample of politicians is surveyed and interviewed, and they are subjected to a series of survey-embedded experiments. To put politicians' behavior in perspective, their answers are compared to parallel citizen surveys in all countries.

Researcher(s)

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Project type(s)

  • Research Project

They are not like us. The perception of differentness, polarization amongst citizens and dissatisfaction with representatives (NOTLIKEUS). 01/01/2022 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

The project examines an hitherto under-examined driver of two of the main problems representative democracies are wrestling with: horizontal affective polarization among citizens and vertical political dissatisfaction with politicians. The 'new' driver is the perception that other-minded citizens and other-minded politicians are not only politically different—they have other political preferences—but that they also are different human beings with different social, cultural and economic features. Ingroup-outgroup mechanisms make that such broad perceptions of differences lead to deepening intergroup animus. Although the theoretical logic of perceptual differences deepening dislike of others is not new, it has never been applied empirically to the study of horizontal polarization and vertical dissatisfaction. NOTLIKEUS engages in a broad and encompassing research program that (1) describes and conceptualizes citizens' perception of differentness of other-minded citizens/politicians, (2) examines its causes, (3) analyses its effect on polarization and dissatisfaction, (4) investigates its ultimate effect on anti-democratic behaviour, and (5) explores possible solutions to the negative fall-out of high levels of perception of differentness. Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative methods, the project examines the Belgian case, a case that is suitable both theoretically and empirically.

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  • Research Project

Politicians' Evaluation of Public Opinion. 01/01/2022 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

When taking policy decisions, elected politicians balance their own ideological views against public opinion. As a result, responsiveness is selective: politicians' course of action sometimes follows and sometimes contradicts popular preferences. It is not yet well understood how politicians make this trade-off. This project examines a novel and understudied explanation at the micro level: how politicians evaluate public opinion signals. The core idea is that some public opinion signals are appraised more positively by politicians than others; and that this appraisal affects whether public opinion weighs on their actions. The objectives are (1) to lay bare the criteria that politicians use to evaluate public opinion; (2) to study how characteristics of a public opinion signal (sender, channel and content) affect its evaluation; (3) to understand how these evaluations affect political actions; and (4) to explore the interplay between politicians' own opinions and their evaluations of public opinion. To study these questions, the project draws on surveys, survey-experiments and interviews with politicians in Belgium. In two rounds of data collection, we will scrutinize what role evaluations of public opinion play in the coming about of political representation. The findings have the potential to inform us on important debates such as why certain disadvantaged groups (e.g. the poor) are represented worse than other groups.

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  • Research Project

"Trust me, I defend your interests". A Multidisciplinary Study of Politicians' Representative Claims and their Effects on Citizens. 01/01/2022 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

Representative claims—i.e. statements in which politicians claim to represent somebody or to know what is in the interests of the represented—are a key element of political communication. Yet, empirical research on these claims is scarce and many central questions about the incidence, type, and effects of representative claims making remain unanswered. For example, at present, we do not know what kinds of claims politicians actually make, how parties differ in their claims making, and how different communication channels are used to make different types of claims. Moreover, we are in the dark about the effects that these claims have on citizens, and in particular on how well they feel represented (or not) by their representatives. This project tackles the above questions by drawing on two different but complementary approaches: a political science and a computational linguistics approach. From a political science point of view, we aim (1) to examine the use (frequency and type) of representative claims by politicians, on three communication channels (parliament, mass media and Facebook), in a longitudinal fashion (1999-2020), and (2) to test the effects that these claims have on citizens' feeling of (not) being well-represented. To reach these aims we will rely on a large-scale content analysis of political speech by politicians (who make representative claims) and by citizens (who react to these claims), complemented with survey-experiments on citizens. The use of advanced techniques in computational linguistics will make such a big data collection possible. Computational linguists will not only have an assisting or methodological role in the project, however (i.e. enabling the data collection); there is a substantive contribution to make to this field too. More specifically, to date, a linguistic challenge is to extract concepts that involve implicit language, such as memes, irony, or other non-literal language, in an automated fashion. To be able to make progress on this problem, there is a need for relevant examples from different scientific domains. Representative claims are an ideal case because often parts of these claims are implicit. The second goal is hence to use the detection and classification of representative claims as a case to advance models of automated extraction of implicit concepts. Substantive insights from political science will help to set the requirements that the models need to meet. The collaboration between the two fields is essential to make gains in each domain separately. Taken together, the project will allow us to examine the incidence and effects of representative claims on an unprecedented scale, and will thus result in better knowledge of a phenomenon that is crucial to understand (the crisis of) representative democracy itself.

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  • Research Project

"First we go viral, then we sway the public": How Protest Affects Public Opinion in the Hybrid Media System. 01/11/2021 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

How does protest affect public opinion in the hybrid media system? The past decade, social media have become a key instrument in protest movements' toolbox. To date, however, little work has thoroughly scrutinized how social media have altered movements' ability to generate attention and sway public opinion. This project asks: How do movements navigate social media to win the public's interest? To what extent and when do protests resonate on social media? And, how do protests affect individuals' perceptions via online messaging? To answer these questions, I follow a three-step approach. First, I explore movements' digital strategy to gain public support. I do so by means of in-depth interviews with movement communication strategists. Second, I compare social and mass media covering protests and examine to what extent and under which conditions protests succeed to resonate in the hybrid media system. I do so by means of a content analysis covering a large number of Belgian protests across a multitude of issues over a longer period of time (2017-2022). Third, I use vignette experiments to understand how both 'physical' and 'digital' features of protest affect individuals' beliefs, attitudes and behavior. The project breaks new ground in three particular ways. It (1) redefines the public opinion concept by studying audience analytics, (2) systematically compares mass and social media resonance, and (3) examines how movements play the "public opinion game" online.

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  • Research Project

The road to advocacy success: Analyzing the mechanisms shaping issue-specific interactions among interest groups and policymakers. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2024

Abstract

Interest groups often play a key role in public policymaking. The lengthy and complex nature of many policy processes, however, means that interest groups typically have to overcome various hurdles to gain influence. Next to agenda-setting success, groups must be effective advocates in several decision-making venues. This project proposes a novel analytical framework connecting interest group literature with social movement studies to (1) analyze intermittent advocacy successes, both in terms of attracting attention for issue priorities and attaining policy positions; and (2) assess the moderating effects of politicization and public opinion on how advocacy shapes the course of policy processes. The project conceptualizes the policy process as a sequence of distinct episodes characterized by whether and how interest groups and policymakers interact among each other and thereby shape the final policy outcome. Empirically, news media and policy content analyses are combined with elite interviews to construct a timeline of interactions between interest groups and policymakers on a medium-N of issues spanning the 2014-2024 Belgian legislative periods. Methodologically, time series and qualitative comparative analysis methods will be used to dissect interaction processes and link them to advocacy successes.

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  • Research Project

Poorly Understood, Deliberately Disregarded, or Well-Represented After All? The Scope and Mechanisms of the Unequal Political Representation of Disadvantaged Groups. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2024

Abstract

A key challenge facing representative democracies today is inequality in political representation. Research has shown that political decision-making is less responsive to the preferences of poorer, lower-educated and female citizens than to those of the rich, the higher-educated and of men. This project builds on these alarming findings and makes two contributions. First, it breaks new ground by empirically accounting for the different ways in which "good representation" can come about. Politicians may represent citizens well by listening to what they want (their 'a priori' preferences), or by taking unpopular decisions in citizens' best interests and then explaining these decisions well (aiming for 'a posteriori' approval). This project considers both, as a more full-fledged test of unequal representation. Second, the project sheds light on the mechanisms that cause unequal representation. Inequalities may arise when politicians lack information about what disadvantaged groups want (citizens are poorly understood) or when they lack the motivation to be responsive (groups are deliberately disregarded). These mechanisms will be disentangled here by directly studying these cognitive processes. Concretely, the project combines (1) an analysis of public opinion and policy with (2) a large-scale public opinion survey on 'a posteriori' policy approval and (3) a survey, experiment and interview with politicians. The results will help to fight inequality more effectively.

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  • Research Project

Francqui research professor Prof. S. Walgrave. 01/09/2021 - 31/08/2024

Abstract

This funding is not related to a research proposal but it is a grant to do less teaching and more research. There is not research content. Hence, a project description with the content of the proposal cannot be provided here.

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  • Research Project

Study on impartiality of the public broadcaster VRT news coverage 2021 13/07/2021 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

The Flemish media and especially the VRT are expected to report impartially in their news and current affairs programmes. According to the Flemish coalition agreement, the VRT's news programs must be monitored for pluralism and neutrality. This study aims to do this by comparing the coverage of the VRT over time and with other media. We are relying on the experience of 18 years of news monitoring by the still ongoing Electronic News Archive (ENA). In concrete terms, the study consists of three parts: (1) An extensive reporting of actors and themes in the main news of Eén, in which the 7 pm VTM newscast will be taken as a point of comparison. (2) An extensive reporting of actors and themes in the current affairs programs on VRT. (3) The detailed coding of three cases (topics/events) in which all news on a wide range of platforms and media (not only VRT) is analyzed.

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  • Research Project

Does the Battle Ever End? Negative Interaction between Political Actors outside of and during Campaigns. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

In recent years, we have witnessed a notable rise in citizens' dissatisfaction with politics. One of the causes is the negativity between political actors, which has been shown to lower political trust, cause polarisation, etc. Even though its effects are known, little attention is given to the mere occurrence of such negativity. Most studies look at negativity from a one-side angle during specific campaigns. We lack insight into the various dimensions of negativity that occur in political interactions, and little to no evidence exists about its prevalence in non-campaign periods across countries and different venues. By contrast, this project's goal is to study the negative interaction among political actors considering its various forms (incivility, emotionality, etc.) in a longitudinal study outside of and during campaigns across contemporary and traditional communication channels. I will look for explanations on different levels, trying to gain a scientific understanding of the types of negativity and instances in which they take place by looking at trends over time and the differences between venues, countries, and issues. The analysis will be based on data from Belgium, Croatia, and the UK, looking at the interactions that took place in parliament, on social media, and in traditional news media between 2000 and 2020. The project's output will allow us to become aware under which factors negativity occurs, allowing to challenge and remedy its potential extensive use.

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  • Research Project

Research Centre on Representatives and their Communication (RCRC). 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

In a context of, across Western democracies, an increasing popular dissatisfaction with political representation, PREPINTACT examines the beliefs, attitudes and behavior of three types of individual intermediary actors— politicians, interest group leaders and journalists—in tandem with the parallel beliefs, attitudes and behavior of ordinary citizens. It argues that in order to get a better grip on how representation works, we need to focus on individual intermediaries. We examine the up- and downstream flows of information that form the core of representation and that connect society with the government system. PREPINTACT has a special interest in political inequality and hypothesizes that disadvantaged societal groups are less adequately represented. Within that general framework, the consortium launches a number of specific, comparative research projects using a range of methods combining social science (experiments, surveys, interviews…) with computational linguistics approaches. The concrete projects look into the accuracy of intermediaries' perception of public opinion, the social bias in their personal networks, the selective communication to their voters/members/audience, the role of social media in reinforcing their attitudes, how they represent within their organizations (parties, media organizations...) etc. Taken together, these projects constitute a never seen, in-depth analysis of how individual intermediaries make representative democracy work (or not).

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  • Research Project

Provocative Protest. How protest sparks debate and expands the scope of conflict (PROVOKE). 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

Is protest effective? Extant work suggests that enlarging the so-called 'scope of conflict'—activating other actors—is key for protest to have political impact. Remarkably, little to no work to date has thoroughly theorized nor analysed how protest manages to affect the scope of conflict. PROVOKE breaks new ground by tackling this crucial mediating mechanism of protest power up front. It asks: To what extent, when, and how does protest succeed in expanding the scope of conflict? And, what are the mechanisms driving scope expansion? We approach the puzzle from two levels. A macro-perspective maps and analyzes reactions to protest in mass and social media. We do so by means of a content analysis covering a large number of Belgian protest events across a multitude of issues over an extensive period of time (2000-2020). A micro-perspective, next, leverages interviews and experiments with politicians, stakeholders and journalists to understand the individual-level mechanisms that drive scope expansion. The goals of the project are threefold: (1) to develop an original theory on protest and scope expansion, integrating literature from political science, sociology and communication; (2) to conceptualize and map, for the first time, the scope of conflict surrounding protest events; and (3) to assess which factors—from protest and media features, over traits of political actors, to the contagious effects of reactions themselves—influence scope expansion.

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  • Research Project

The Voice of the People. Displays of Public Opinion in the News and Their Influence on Audiences. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

One of the main functions of news media in democracies is representing public opinion. There are several ways in which journalists can do so: by covering (1) polls (2) vox pops (3) inferences about public opinion (4) protest or (5) social media references. Many studies focus on one of these public opinion displays. However, surprisingly, no research exists studying how these different displays are combined in the news. Gaining an understanding of how public opinion is presented in the news is important, as people look at the media to learn about the opinions of others. The core questions of this project are consequently: How is public opinion represented in news content and how does this influence citizens? To answer these questions I combine a content analysis comprising news from three countries (the US, UK & Belgium) with a series of experiments. The content analysis will focus on how frequent the different displays are and how they are combined in the news. Moreover, how journalists frame public opinion is also examined: do they present the public as a homogenous mass? This is important, as homogeneity is expected to play a role in the influence process of public opinion displays. In the second phase of the project, a series of cumulative experiments will be conducted to gain an understanding of how and when public opinion displays influence audiences' perceived public opinion and personal opinion and of the role of homogeneity in the process.

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  • Research Project

Electronic news archive 2022. 01/01/2022 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

The Electronic News Archive (ENA) contains (1) the television news archive and (2) the newspaper archive. (1) The television news archive exists since 2003 and contains all news broadcasts of Eén and VTM. (2) The newspaper archive exists since 2013 and is a collaboration with Belga and Zeticon. It contains newspaper articles from De Standaard, De Morgen, De Tijd, Het Laatste Nieuws, Het Nieuwsblad, Gazet van Antwerpen, Het Belang van Limburg and Metro.

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  • Research Project

The Vote. A yearly survey of Flemings about the political situation in Flanders and Belgium 01/02/2021 - 31/05/2021

Abstract

De Vote is a survey of Flemish voters about their voting behaviour, attitudes, perceptions and other political behaviour. The survey is carried out annually on behalf of VRT and De Standaard. The results are published through these media channels. Every year there are a number of questions/measurements that are taken up from previous years, while new questions about new topics are also asked every year. In the 2021 version, much attention was paid to long-term shifts in ideological attitudes, to affective polarization, to corona policy, to the individual popularity of politicians, etc.

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  • Research Project

Electronic news archive 2021. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Het Elektronisch Nieuwsarchief (ENA) bevat (1) het televisienieuwsarchief en (2) het krantennieuwsarchief. (1) Het televisienieuwsarchief bestaat sinds 2003 en archiveert, ontsluit en annoteert alle hoofduitzendingen van Eén en VTM. Op dit moment bevat het archief alle nieuwsuitzendingen tussen 2003 en juni 2019. Het gaat in totaal om +/- 200.000 nieuwsitems die uitgebreid zijn beschreven en die via een website doorzoekbaar en bekijkbaar zijn. Sinds 2011 worden ook andere actualiteitsprogramma's gearchiveerd. (2) Het krantennieuwsarchief bestaat sinds 2013 en is een samenwerkingsverband met Belga en Zeticon. Het archief bestaat uit de krantenartikelen van acht Vlaamse kranten (De Standaard, De Morgen, De Tijd, Het Laatste Nieuws, Het Nieuwsblad, Gazet van Antwerpen, Het Belang van Limburg, Metro). Op dit moment bevat het archief alle krantenartikelen van 2003 tot en met 2018. De artikelen zijn via een website doorzoekbaar.

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  • Research Project

'I represent the people, and my opponent does not!' The effects of representative claims on citizens' feeling of being (un)represented. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

Many studies examine popular resentment with politics. It seems that citizens have the feeling that they are not properly being represented by the politicians and parties they elect. One should ask, where do these feelings come from? In this project, I argue that we might find part of the explanation in politicians' communication, particularly, in the representative claims they make. Politicians claim to represent others every day (e.g. I represent women) and claim that other politicians do not (e.g. He does not represent the people). Being mentioned as 'the represented' might make some people feel well-represented, while others might feel ignored (or relatively deprived) and therefore feel unrepresented. Yet, at present, very little to no research has defined what it means to feel (un)represented, let alone measured the concept. Similarly, little empirical research has been done on politicians' representative claims. Consequently, we know close to nothing about the possible effects of these claims on the extent to which people feel (un)represented by politicians and their parties. This project aims to tackle these gaps in literature in three steps. First, by operationalizing and measuring 'feeling (un)represented'. Second, by measuring and analyzing the various claims Flemish politicians make. Lastly, the two first studies will serve as necessary input to experimentally test the effects of representative claims on citizens' feeling of being (un)represented.

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  • Research Project

(Why) do politicians care about public opinion? Politicians' accountability beliefs: the missing link in explaining policy (in)congruence. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Politicians nowadays face the criticism of not being responsive towards citizens' demands, with as a classical though crucial example the recent populist uprisings. Citizens seem to believe that, even if they convey their preferences loud and clear, they are ignored by those who should represent them. One crucial guarantee of responsive politicians, lies in the threat of electoral reprisal: politicians are incentivized to do what citizens want because they want to retain in office. Politicians' desire to be reelected makes them presumably enact more congruent policies. In this project, I focus on this important mechanism, by examining politicians' beliefs about how and to what extent the congruence of their behavior with what citizens want, will have positive or negative electoral consequences. In strong contradiction with the centrality of this research question in the public debate, it has rarely come to the attention of academics. In this project, I address this gap with an in-depth study of politicians' so-called "accountability beliefs". First, I aim to conceptualize those accountability beliefs. Second, I examine accountability beliefs empirically by means of an extensive survey with politicians in three different countries. Third, I aim to explain those beliefs by leveraging differences between countries, parties, politicians and issues. Finally, by conducting a survey-embedded experiment, I investigate whether politicians' accountability beliefs affect their behavior.

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  • Research Project

The Vote. A yearly survey of Flemings about the political situation in Flanders and Belgium 25/03/2020 - 16/05/2020

Abstract

The Vote is a yearly survey commissioned by media partners De Standaard and VRT. It consists of a panel part and a cross-sectional part. Flemish voters are asked about their political behavior and their political attitudes.

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  • Research Project

Electronic news archive 2020 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Het Elektronisch Nieuwsarchief (ENA) bevat (1) het televisienieuwsarchief en (2) het krantennieuwsarchief. (1) Het televisienieuwsarchief bestaat sinds 2003 en archiveert, ontsluit en annoteert alle hoofduitzendingen van Eén en VTM. Op dit moment bevat het archief alle nieuwsuitzendingen tussen 2003 en juni 2019. Het gaat in totaal om +/- 200.000 nieuwsitems die uitgebreid zijn beschreven en die via een website doorzoekbaar en bekijkbaar zijn. Sinds 2011 worden ook andere actualiteitsprogramma's gearchiveerd. (2) Het krantennieuwsarchief bestaat sinds 2013 en is een samenwerkingsverband met Belga en Zeticon. Het archief bestaat uit de krantenartikelen van acht Vlaamse kranten (De Standaard, De Morgen, De Tijd, Het Laatste Nieuws, Het Nieuwsblad, Gazet van Antwerpen, Het Belang van Limburg, Metro). Op dit moment bevat het archief alle krantenartikelen van 2003 tot en met 2018. De artikelen zijn via een website doorzoekbaar.

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  • Research Project

In Times of Peace, Prepare for War: Negative Interaction Between Political Actors outside and during Campaigns. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2020

Abstract

In recent years we have witnessed a significant rise in citizens' dissatisfaction with politics. One of the causes is the negativity between political actors, that has been shown to decrease participation in elections, lower political trust, and give rise to polarisation. Despite the fact that the effects of negativity in politics are well known, little is known about the occurrence of negativity—or even incivility—itself. Most studies focus exclusively on negativity in election campaigns and on a single country/election case. By contrast, this project will tackle negative interactions between political actors in a longitudinal study in three countries outside and during of electoral campaigns. My objective is to study negativity, basically defined as any criticism or attack directed towards a political competitor, in a multidimensional way (taking into account the type, content, specificity and extremity of the attack). I will look for explanations on different levels, trying to come to a scientific understanding of when negativity occurs, by looking at trends over time and differences between actors, issues, venues and countries. An analysis will be based on data from Belgium, Croatia, and the United Kingdom; looking at the actors' interactions that took place in parliament and media during the period of 1990-2020. The project output will allow to speculate about which factors could remedy the extensive use of negativity.

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  • Research Project

Development and provision of an online test application elections 2019. 29/03/2019 - 26/05/2019

Abstract

This project builds the vote advice application Stemtest19. This project builds the vote advice application Stemtest19. This project builds the vote advice application Stemtest19. This project builds the vote advice application Stemtest19. This project builds the vote advice application Stemtest19. This project builds the vote advice application Stemtest19. This project builds the vote advice application Stemtest19.This project builds the vote advice application Stemtest19.

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  • Research Project

Electronic Newsarchive 2019. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Het Elektronisch Nieuwsarchief (ENA) bevat (1) het televisienieuwsarchief en (2) het krantennieuwsarchief. (1) Het televisienieuwsarchief bestaat sinds 2003 en archiveert, ontsluit en annoteert alle hoofduitzendingen van Eén en VTM. Op dit moment bevat het archief alle nieuwsuitzendingen tussen 2003 en juni 2019. Het gaat in totaal om +/- 200.000 nieuwsitems die uitgebreid zijn beschreven en die via een website doorzoekbaar en bekijkbaar zijn. Sinds 2011 worden ook andere actualiteitsprogramma's gearchiveerd. (2) Het krantennieuwsarchief bestaat sinds 2013 en is een samenwerkingsverband met Belga en Zeticon. Het archief bestaat uit de krantenartikelen van acht Vlaamse kranten (De Standaard, De Morgen, De Tijd, Het Laatste Nieuws, Het Nieuwsblad, Gazet van Antwerpen, Het Belang van Limburg, Metro). Op dit moment bevat het archief alle krantenartikelen van 2003 tot en met 2018. De artikelen zijn via een website doorzoekbaar.

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  • Research Project

(WHY) DO POLITICIANS CARE ABOUT PUBLIC OPINION? Politicians' accountability beliefs: the missing link in explaining policy (in)congruence. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

Politicians nowadays face the criticism of not being responsive towards citizens' demands, with as a classical though crucial example the recent populist uprisings. Citizens seem to believe that, even if they convey their preferences loud and clear, they are ignored by those who should represent them. One crucial guarantee of responsive politicians, lies in the threat of electoral reprisal: politicians are incentivized to do what citizens want because they want to retain in office. Politicians' desire to be reelected makes them presumably enact more congruent policies. In this project, I focus on this important mechanism, by examining politicians' beliefs about how and to what extent the congruence of their behavior with what citizens want, will have positive or negative electoral consequences. In strong contradiction with the centrality of this research question in the public debate, it has rarely come to the attention of academics. In this project, I address this gap with an in-depth study of politicians' so-called "accountability beliefs". First, I aim to conceptualize those accountability beliefs. Second, I examine accountability beliefs empirically by means of an extensive survey with politicians in three different countries. Third, I aim to explain those beliefs by leveraging differences between countries, parties, politicians and issues. Finally, by conducting a survey-embedded experiment, I investigate whether politicians' accountability beliefs affect their behavior.

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  • Research Project

Representation and Democratic Resentment (RepResent). 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Existing democracies are challenged by critics such as Trump, Brexiteers and populists claiming that democracy is not representative anymore. RepResent takes these claims serious by empirically examining the relationship between popular democratic resentment and the functioning of representation. Is representation failing? And, is democratic resentment driven by failing representation? Democratic representation consists of several dimensions, a substantive (policies), a procedural (institutions) and a symbolic dimension (feeling represented by representatives). Adequate representation entails there is congruence between the preferences of citizens and the actual policies, democratic procedures and representatives. RepResent is novel in the sense that it systematically compares citizens' views with elites' views, that it tackles all three dimensions at the same time to assess their individual contribution to democratic resentment, and that it does so in a dynamic over-time design. Concretely, RepResent examines the 2019 elections in Belgium, the campaign that precedes it and the term that follows. Its institutional structure makes Belgium a good, even a critical case. Using a large variety of methods all with a dynamic component and ranging from traditional panel surveys, over content analyses and experiments, to focus groups and interviews, RepResent aims to dig deep into one of the root causes of the widespread democratic resentment characterizing current politics.

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  • Research Project

Electronic Newsarchive 2018. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

The Electronic News Archive ("Elektronisch Nieuwsachief" ENA – www.nieuwsarchief.be) is a digital database that contains all the 7 pm news broadcasts of public broadcaster Eén (VRT) and commercial broadcaster VTM, the two largest Flemish broadcasters, starting in 2003 up to the present. All news broadcasts are being coded: the news items are viewed in detail and analyzed. The ENA is an initiative of the Antwerp University, with Stefaan Walgrave as a promotor. From January 2012 until January 2016 the ENA was part of the Flemish 'Steunpunt Media', a collaboration between the four Flemish universities, financed by the Flemish government. Since the beginning of 2016 the ENA in the Antwerp University is financed by the Flemish minister for Media. A first goal of the ENA is to analyze news content and report the findings to the Flemish government or use them in scientific publications. A second goal is to provide the data to the broader scientific community.

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  • Research Project

How Are Policymakers Influenced by What the Public Wants? An Experimental Study of the Effect of Public Opinion on Elite Preferences and Behavior. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

For a democracy to function well—it is often argued—representatives must listen to the people who elected them. More specifically, policy should represent citizens' preferences. A core task of political scientists is to examine whether this democratic assumption is met in reality. This project aims to contribute to the large body of scientific work on policy representation in three particular ways. First, it scrutinizes the causal effect of public opinion on political elites. A lot of research demonstrates that policy decisions and public opinion are associated. However, we lack strong evidence that this association results from elites' effort to act in a responsive way. Second, the project unravels the mechanisms underlying this representational process, which have largely remained unobserved. Extant research has theorized about why elites adapt their behavior—and even their own preferences—to public opinion, but these mechanisms have not been empirically tested. Finally, this project innovates methodologically. It uses survey-embedded experiments and in-depth interviews with political elites to study policy representation. Experiments guarantee researcher control, and are therefore well-suited to establish causality and tease out the mechanisms that drive the influence of public opinion on political elites. In-depth interviews help to interpret the findings and put them into context.

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  • Research Project

The Impact of Information and Own Preferences on Political Elites' Perceptions of the Voters' Policy Wishes. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

We examine to what extent elected politicians hold correct perceptions regarding the policy preferences of the population (at large and their electorate) and explain the variation in perceptual accuracy among politicians. Although representation can happen via other mechanisms, adequate representation by elites often entails a more or less accurate perception of what the public wants. The rare work on elites estimations' of the public's preferences suggests that elites tend to project their own opinion on the electorate and that estimations' accuracy varies across individuals and issues. A theory explaining why some elites are better estimators on some issues than others is missing. The goal of this project is to offer such a theory and test it drawing on novel data. The argument is that the accuracy of elites' perceptions is a function of information at their disposal and of their own preferences, and of the interaction between information and preferences. Extant work focused on elites' own preferences, the crucial information part has been overlooked. Data are to be collected in Belgium among regional and national MPs both Dutch- as Frenchspeaking. Due to its institutional make up, Belgium provides a comparative case study in itself. Core evidence comes from a survey with embedded experiments among elected politicians and citizens. Citizens are asked about their own preferences on 15-20 issues, elites about their own and their perception of citizens' preferences.

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  • Research Project

Monitor Diversity 2017-2020 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

The diversity monitor examines the diversity of people shown in TV-programmes of the public broadcaster VRT. Diversity involves people's sexual preferences, their gender, ethnic background... The Monitor is carried out regularly and is sponsored by the VRT.

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  • Research Project

How political news affects and is affected by citizens in the social media age. Theoretical challenges and empirical opportunities 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

In a democracy, citizens need knowledge about politics. The mass media are traditionally considered as key actors in providing this necessary information. Ample studies on agenda-setting and framing have shown time and again that the news media have a profound influence on what people know, and how they think about politics. The question is to what extent it is possible to maintain many of these classic insights in the digital era. The increasing importance of the Internet and in particular social media as a means of communication and information has likely changed how people learn about what is going on in the world, and about politics more specifically. For instance, the agenda-setting and framing role of the media is challenged, because social media use puts the underlying causal mechanism, from mass media to the public, into question. More and more journalists are influenced by discussions on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. In addition, politicians have more digital opportunities to directly influence the public while bypassing the traditional media. In short, we aim to study consume and engage with political news and how they are affected by it, but also on how journalists and politicians are, in turn, influenced by people's engagement with the news. Digital media not only challenge some of the established theoretical insights but simultaneously also offer new opportunities to study how information spreads and how the public deals with it. Today, it is possible to map all online news and all citizens' digital reactions to it (comments, likes, tweets). This makes it possible to study much more accurately agenda-setting processes by how people interact with news. Framing, as well, can be studied now much more precisely and especially drawing on much larger samples of citizens and media messages. In addition, analyzing digital text and expressed opinion in social media allows demographic and attitudinal profiling of citizens that could strongly increase our knowledge of the individual moderators of agenda-setting and framing effects. To make sense of this unprecedented source of written language and digital behaviour, we opt for a multidisciplinary collaboration between computational linguistics, data mining and social sciences. The appropriateness of social scientific theories of agenda-setting and framing will be put to the test in a digital context by means of big data analyses. Computational linguistics techniques will be used to automatically analyze the topics addressed in social media text, the opinions expressed about these topic, and the profiles of the social media users expressing these opinions. The possibilities of digital text analysis, however, go beyond testing classic media effects theories such as agenda-setting and framing. Our ambition is to use the new data opportunities to develop new theoretical insights by discovering underlying patterns in an inductive fashion. By applying data mining techniques on the data of users' digital behavior and searching for underlying patterns, we may obtain insights into which events, persons and topics ordinary citizens 'like' and want to 'share'. Concretely, we aim to study one planned major political event, the 2019 Belgian election campaign, and one non-planned or unexpected event in the course of 2018. We expect that the information flows in both types of events are structurally different. For each event we plan a survey and a large quantitative data collection covering about four weeks, with content drawn from all major online news websites, and the social media platforms Twitter and Facebook.

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  • Research Project

Lobbying for the people: Interest groups and public pressure in EU legislative politics. 01/10/2016 - 15/08/2019

Abstract

Opinion leaders often criticize EU lobbying as a 'disease for democracy' and detrimental to the public interest. The lobbying scandals that make it to the news headlines typically involve business lobbyists that influence or bribe corrupted policymakers in smoky backrooms. The public image of EU lobbying is very negative. This negative image, however, might not be an accurate depiction of what lobbying and interest group politics in Brussels entails. In many instances, interest groups – such as business groups, NGOs and labor unions – serve as key transmission belts between the public and EU policymakers. These organizations can make EU policymakers more responsive by informing them about how much support a specific policy issue enjoys among citizens. The role of interest groups in elucidating public pressure to policymakers remains largely neglected in both responsiveness and interest group studies. Clarifying this role will precisely be the focus of my postdoctoral project. The main research question I aim to answer is: To what extent and under which conditions are EU policy outcomes responsive to public pressures articulated by interest groups? Empirically, the project departs from a stratified sample of policy proposals put forward by the European Commission. For each proposal, I will identify – by triangulating multiple data-sources – the entire set of stakeholders that sought to influence the legislative outcome and the information about public pressure they voiced.

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  • Research Project

It's a Matter of Timing. The Practice and Effectiveness of Strategic Communication Timing by Politicians in Belgium. 01/10/2016 - 30/06/2019

Abstract

Political decisions are more and more made with the press in mind. Politicians' communication efforts are increasingly professionalized and ever more resources go to news management. Accordingly, there is growing scholarly attention for the mediatization of politics and the adaptation of politicians to the media logic. Yet, this stream of literature has remained largely theoretical. Few studies investigate the activities by which politicians try to shape media coverage. Furthermore, studies examining politicians' media work are almost exclusively about 'what' the content of the messages is and 'how' these are sent. 'When' the messages are communicated is mostly neglected. The timing of a message, however, is a crucial factor to explain whether political messages are covered in the news. What is picked up by journalists is highly dependent on media dynamics at a certain moment. Moreover, timing strategies are gaining relevance because of the 24-hour news cycle and the advent of news websites and social media. This project constructs a theory on strategic timing and empirically analyzes whether timing is an effective tool for politicians to gain or avoid media coverage. Via a classic gatekeeping study, observation of press officers and experimental surveys with Belgian politicians, this project investigates how political actors strategically plan their communications (the practice of timing) and to what extent this influences what becomes news (the effectiveness of timing).

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  • Research Project

Media as Missing Link ? A comparative study of news influence on party support. 01/08/2016 - 31/07/2020

Abstract

The primary objective is to advance and integrate the study of media, political communication and electoral politics by strengthening our theoretical understanding and empirical knowledge of how the media - through their coverage and framing of issues and political parties - affect party support and electoral competition. The research will cover five countries across several decades. It promises insights into the recent development and current scope of the media's political influence in Western Europe, and into how differences between party systems, concentration of executive power, structures of party competition, interest group systems and media systems condition the media's electoral influence. Against the backdrop of mediatization and increasing electoral volatility, the project asks whether the media influence party support. Despite increasing scholarly attention to the media-politics relationship, this basic but crucial question remain largely unanswered. We wish to address this gap in a set of closely integrated and pioneering studies looking at how the issues, frames and actors that appear in the news affect the support of political parties. All studies will be comparative (Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands & UK) allowing us to draw conclusions on mediatized politics in Western Europe in general, as well as on how political and media systems shape media influence on party competition. Relevant studies include, but is not limited to, the following examples: First, the project will look at whether, and how, the issues that the media pay attention to influence party support through the mechanisms of priming and issue ownership. Despite the fact that issue voting is increasing and the media are the dominant source of political information for the public, the media's role in issue voting is still mostly assumed. Second, we will investigate whether, and how, the appearances of parties in the media affect their public support. It is a near universal trait of modern democratic politics that incumbents get more news coverage. We explore whether this incumbency bonus has a negative impact on support, thus contributing to the explanation of the established cost of ruling finding in electoral research. Third, we want to examine whether, and how, news framing of parties' policy performance and images on non-policy valence dimensions (competence, integrity and unity) affect party competition and party support. Such a study thus explicitly promotes the role of the media in the growing study of valence politics. The two main sources of data in the project relate to news content (the issues, actors and frames that appear in news media) and public opinion (election surveys and opinion polls covering vote intention/vote). In terms of analyses, the studies will apply the quantitative data in a wide range of statistical models.

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  • Research Project

Electronic Newsarchive. 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

The Electronic News Archive ("Elektronisch Nieuwsachief" ENA – www.nieuwsarchief.be) is a digital database that contains all the 7 pm news broadcasts of public broadcaster Eén (VRT) and commercial broadcaster VTM, the two largest Flemish broadcasters, starting in 2003 up to the present. All news broadcasts are being coded: the news items are viewed in detail and analyzed. The ENA is an initiative of the Antwerp University, with Stefaan Walgrave as a promotor. From January 2012 until January 2016 the ENA was part of the Flemish 'Steunpunt Media', a collaboration between the four Flemish universities, financed by the Flemish government. Since the beginning of 2016 the ENA in the Antwerp University is financed by the Flemish minister for Media. A first goal of the ENA is to analyze news content and report the findings to the Flemish government or use them in scientific publications. A second goal is to provide the data to the broader scientific community.

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  • Research Project

Mechanisms of Protest. The Micro-Level Foundations of Individual Protest Participation. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

Protest participation is increasing globally. How come? This project adds to solving the protest puzzle by scrutinizing the individual-level mechanisms that lead some to participate in a specific protest event whereas others do not.

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  • Research Project

The Persuasive Power of Protest. An Experimental Study of the Effect of Protest Coverage on Citizens and Political Elites. 01/10/2014 - 30/06/2018

Abstract

When is protest persuasive? Or, more precisely, how do protest actions succeed in eliciting supportive reactions of citizens and political elites? Protest has become a mainstream instrument in Western democracies for citizens to signal problems and communicate preferences. Evidence on how protest proves influential is scarce, however. This project seeks to contribute to the recent surge in attention to protest impact in four particular ways. First, it places the role of mass media in protest politics center stage. It formulates and substantiates a theory on protest impact with media attention as crucial mediating variable. It is through media coverage that protest is perceived and it is to media cues that observers of protest react. Second, it lays bare the mechanisms that drive protest power. It tests how internal characteristics of protest –displays of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment– influence the salience people attach to the protest issue, the position they take on that issue and the action they are willing to take. Third, it compares two protest publics -elites and citizens- and as such explores two pathways of protest impact. Finally, this project also innovates methodologically. It introduces experiments in the field of protest impact research. Experiments guarantee researcher control, can ascertain causality and hence are ideally suited to test and tease out the mechanisms that drive the mediated persuasive power of protest.

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Development and provision of an online test application elections 2014. 18/02/2014 - 25/05/2014

Abstract

In this project six Voting Aid Applications are developped. Voting Aid Applications are online systems that compare a participant's own opinions with the formal policy positions of all parties. A VAA provides a participant at the end with a list of parties in descending order of positional match with his opinions.

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Monitor Diversity (radio broadcasting). 01/01/2014 - 30/06/2014

Abstract

The goal of this project is measuring of the diversity on the national readio as perceived by the listerners themselves. The neccessary stept are taken to accomplish that goal. The project uses job students.

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  • Research Project

Scientific Chair International Francqui Professor 2013-2014 (Prof. Shanto Iyengar). 01/10/2013 - 31/03/2014

Abstract

The project consists of financing the stay of professor Shanto Iyengar at the University of Antwerp. Iyengar stays in Antwerp with regard to his International Francqui Professorship. He participates in the research of the M²P reserach group, gives lectures, does master classes etc.

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Information-processing by individual political actors. The determinants of exposure, attention and action in a comparative perspective (INFOPOL). 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

A well-functioning democracy implies that political actors are aware of the real problems in society, their potential solutions, and the associated preferences of citizens. This requires information about the real world. This project examines how individual political actors process information coming out of society. Its goal is to lay bare the patterns whereby exposure to certain types of information regarding problems lead to specific forms of attention to that information triggering particular kinds of action by political actors.

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Monitor Diversity 2012. 30/04/2012 - 02/09/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VRT. UA provides VRT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Participation and representation. A comparative study of linkage mechanisms between citizens and the political system in contemporary democracies (PARTIREP). 01/04/2012 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

Changing patterns of participation and representation was already the theme on which the PARTIREP network has focused in the course of the past five years (2007-2011). The network has set up a variety of projects on patterns of political participation, political trust, political protest, political parties, political deliberation and political representation. In this application we will investigate these ideas by focusing on three broad research themes or work packages: substantive representation, personalization and democratic innovation.

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Research Centre MEDIA (2012-2015). 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Information-processing by individual political actors. The determinants of exposure, attention and action. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

The project investigates the way individual political actors process information about real-world problems, about solutions to those problems and about associated preferences in the public. Theoretically, the project investigates which properties of the informative signal, of the sender of the information or of the receiver affects to what extent political actors are exposed to the information, attend to the information and act upon the information. Empirically the project draws on a broad array of methods applied to a sample of elite actors in Belgium.

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Why are female politicians not making it into the news? And why do they get different coverage if they do? A comparative eight-country study. 01/10/2011 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

Research shows that female politicians receive less media coverage than their male colleagues. And, when female politicians do get in the news, they get different media coverage with more attention to their family situation, less attention for the issues they raise, and a greater emphasis on their age, sex and appearance. The goal of this project is to account for the under- and misrepresentation of female politicians: how come? Why are female politicians not making it into the news and why do they get different coverage if they do?

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International research in political sciences. 01/10/2011 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

This project represents a research contract awarded by the University of Antwerp. The supervisor provides the Antwerp University research mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions stipulated by the university.

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ECRP Master Class 'The Politics of Attention: West European politics in times of change'. 23/06/2011 - 23/08/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal service agreement between UA and on the other hand ESF. UA provides ESF research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Monitor Diversity 2011. 30/04/2011 - 02/09/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VRT. UA provides VRT research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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  • Research Project

The Political Agenda-Setting Power of Protest. A Comparative Analysis in Five European Countries. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

We investigate the impact of protest on the political agenda. Do protest events addressing a certain issue lead to subsequent increase in attention for that issue on the political agenda? Adopting an agenda-setting approach that takes political attention as the dependent variable solves many theoretical and methodological problems of previous work dealing with social movements' impact and yields a straightforward and standardized time-series design. The research deals with five countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, and the UK) that are sufficiently different to test a host of comparative hypotheses.

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Rethinking the federal paradox. Sub state nationalist discourse of political parties in electoral manifestoes and television debates of four federal countries (1968-2010). 01/10/2010 - 04/11/2012

Abstract

The literature on federalism has been dealing with an unresolved paradox for many years. On the one hand, by granting autonomy to sub state collectivities, federalism is said to temper demands of sub-state nationalist parties. On the other hand, by institutionalizing sub state identities, federalism is said to provide tools that reinforce autonomist or separatist demands. Important to resolve this paradox is that federal systems can differ strongly amongst each other and that they can interact with other characteristics of a concerned country (electoral system, party system, media system, ¿). This project wants to look into this paradox in an innovative way: by analysing sub state nationalist discourse of political parties and elites over the last four decades in four federal countries: Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and the UK. It wants to do this through frame analysis of party electoral manifestoes and televised election debates for all national elections. Attention will be paid to evolutions in official positions as well as to explicit and implicit elements of (sub-)national identity construction. This way we want to contribute to resolving the federal paradox, by getting a detailed view on the dynamics of sub state nationalism in four federal countries.

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How issues make news (Marie Curie IIF). 28/07/2010 - 27/07/2011

Abstract

How issues make the news: a comparative analysis of the causes and consequences of media attention in Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the United States.

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Project TST Tools for Dutch as Web services in a Workflow (TTNWW). 01/01/2010 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Shifting patterns of participation and representation in Europe. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

This research community is focused on assessing the changing patterns of participation and representation in Europe. Traditional pattern of participation and represenattaion seem te be challenged and the question is whether the new emerging patterns can take over and produce the same beneficial effects as the old types of participation and representation did.

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Caught in the act of protest: Contextualizing contestation (CCC). 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

The central research question of this Belgian research proposal is the role and importance of protest issues or themes in determining who will participate in protest, why they do so, and how they get to do so.

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Coverage of the international community: facts, impact and action space. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2009

Abstract

This research project examines foreign news on Belgian (Flemish) TV-stations focusing on three questions. (1) What is the state of affairs of foreign news on Belgian TV. Is it declining or not? Does it has high qualitative standards or not? (2) What is the imact of foreign news on the attitudes and behavior of the news consumers? (3) To what extent and how can the Flemish government develop a policy to stimulate covering foreign news on the Flemish TV-stations?

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Politics of interest representation and agenda-setting in multi-level political systems. 01/07/2008 - 30/06/2013

Abstract

Political decision-making is increasingly taking place in multi-layered environments, due to macro-processes of European integration and globalization. Territorial interests (such as regional governments, cities or provinces) and functional interests (such as business associations or labor unions) are therefore more and more challenged to represent their interests in these evolving multi-level contexts. The central aim of the proposed project is to answer the following question: how do interest organizations adapt to the opportunities and constraints imposed by multi-level politica) systems? The answer to this question will contribute to a more fine-grained understanding of why some political interests are able to take advantage of the growing transnationalization of politics while other interests are on the loosing side. For this purpose, the proposed project integrates several theoretical approaches including organization theory, different strands of institutionalism, comparative federalism as well as population ecology. It is the combination of these different theoretical frameworks into one systematic research design that will lead to a substantial enrichment of ongoing theoretical debates. This ambitious enterprise is made operational through three interlinked empirical projects that each deal with the organization of political interests in different institutional contexts. The first project aims to establish a grounded understanding of the conditions under which multi-level venue shopping takes place. The second project investigates the development of the WTO transnational interest group system and how this affects the trade policy agenda. Finally, the third project builds an theoretical framework in order to explain varying forms of territorial representation in the EU. This combination of research that compares different institutional contexts will lead to more systematic knowledge on why and how international, supranational and domestic institutions enable or constrain the mobilization of non-state actors within a complex multi-layered environment.

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Symmetry and political families. 01/04/2008 - 30/09/2008

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    Political parties' role in political agenda-setting. A longitudinal study in Belgium. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2011

    Abstract

    The study tackles political parties' role in the political agenda-setting process in Belgium. Integrating the American and the European approaches to agenda-setting the study adopts a longitudinal and multi-actor perspective to assess parties' net impact on a multitude of political agenda's. Party preferences are not taken for granted but are embedded in the broader political context; they are endogenous factors to be explained.

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    ESF - ECRP - The Politics of Attention: West European politics in times of change. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2011

    Abstract

    Main aims of this project are: -To develop a new theorietical perspective on the "issue supply of politics" in West Europe. how can similarities and differences between countries be understood? -To develop a more comprehensive understanding of agenda-setting dynamics. What is the role of different actors such as mass media and political parties? What are the effects of the different institutional structures found across Europe? -To strengthen the comparative element in policy agendas research. How does American based policy agenda theory work in a European context? -To establish a unique data source for studying politics in West Europe. Experience from the American Policy Agendas Project show that the datasets established through this research project can be of value to many other scholars.

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    Media in election times: Explaining the content of election coverage in an international comparative perspective. 01/10/2007 - 31/01/2009

    Abstract

    The aim of this project is to map and explain the similarities and differences in election coverage in four different countries. As independent variables we will draw on the structural characteristics of the political and media system in the selected countries. Yet, based on original survey data, the informal interaction culture between politicians and journalists will also be used as explaining variables.

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    Organisation of a representative survey concerning the federal elections. 01/03/2007 - 30/06/2007

    Abstract

    idem

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    Changing Patterns of Participation and Representation in Contemporary Democracies. A Comparative Research on the Relation between Citizens and State. 01/01/2007 - 31/12/2011

    Abstract

    Within the scientific literature, there is a broad consensus about the importance of mass participation as a defining characteristic of a well-functioning liberal democratic system. Various hypotheses have been formulated about the impact of internet on participation patterns. While some authors fear that internet will have a detrimental impact on participation levels, others argue that new forms of electronic communication will boost political participation, thus empowering citizens. Another element in the debate is the question whether internet will mobilize new groups of the population, that were underrepresented in more traditional forms of participation ('mobilization thesis'), or whether the new medium will simply reinforce existing patterns of inequality with regard to participation ('reinforcement thesis'). The basic, underlying question of this research project, therefore, is whether we can expect internet to have a positive or negative impact on the democratic character of participation and mobilization in Western societies. Thus far most scholars investigating the political impact of internet have been focusing exclusively on data on individual users, demonstrating a digital divide with regard to gender, age and education level. Yet, political participation always involves three levels. First, there is the individual level of the citizen who participates or not (micro). Second, one has to incorporate the organizational level of organizations and social movements recruiting and mobilizing people into participation (meso). Third, there is the level of the political system that is addressed by the political participation acts (macro). We will address all three levels simultaneously in this study, thus arriving at a more comprehensive understanding of the political impact of internet, than has been done in earlier studies. Our general research question, hence, can be specified into three subquestions: (1) does ICT reinforce or diminish existing individual-level participation inequalities? (micro); (2) does ICT lower the threshold for collective political actors wanting to mobilize the population (meso)?; (3) does ICT augment the impact of political mobilization on political decision-making (macro)? The research consists of a series of substudies tackling each of these three questions: 1) an overview of inequalities with regard to the political use of internet; 2) an analysis of the way social movement organizations use ICT to develop coalitions and to reach out to potential participants; 3) a study on internet as a campaign tool for political parties; 4) a study on the relation between available resources and effectiveness of website presence; 5) a comparative study on the way social movements use ICT for transnational mobilisation; 6) a policy oriented study on the organization of e-government as a way to support the communication flow between citizens and the political system. Three of these workpackages which will be conducted simultaneously with an identical study in the US or Canada, carried out by our international partners. Including these comparative approaches strengthens the validity of our research findings. This study builds on the previous expertise of all four research partners, with regard to social movement mobilization, impact of participation and political information, campaigns by political parties, and transnational social movement activism. In according with the rules for this program, the project will be conducted in three years time, leading to a comprehensive report on the effect of internet on citizens' participation and mobilization. The report will be relevant to policy-makers, social movements and civil society activists, but also for researchers working on political activism and political communication. ¿¿¿¿

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    • Research Project

    Codification Monitor Diversity. 01/01/2007 - 31/01/2010

    Abstract

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    • Research Project

    Peace for the Flemish People. 01/10/2006 - 30/04/2007

    Abstract

    This research surveys Flemish people's perceptions of peace and war drawing upon a survey of 1,000 persons.

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    • Research Project

    Internet-panel local elections 2006. 01/02/2006 - 30/11/2006

    Abstract

    Gelieve aan te vullen a.u.b.

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    • Research Project

    Protest surveying. Possibilities and limitations of an innovative research design. 01/01/2006 - 31/12/2009

    Abstract

    Modern Western societies are permeated by political protest. Different scientific disciplines study protest but their approach is partial and one-sided, and often they do not seem to address the central questions: who protests, for what issues and why, and how do people come to protest? Especially the theoretical and methodological void between the different 'levels' of protest research is problematic. Protest only comes about when a societal and political context (macro) generates a 'demand' for protest (micro) that is linked with a protest 'offer' by mobilizing actors (meso). This micro-macro-bridge still is a weak point in most protest research. The basic intuition of this project is that questioning specific protest event participants drawing on so-called protest surveys can tear down the walls between the different scientific traditions and, by focussing on the link between demand and supply, can make a significant contribution to our knowledge of protest, its drivers and mechanisms. The research group applying for this FWO research is one of the most active in this new research field. The aim of this project is to develop the protest survey method and its research design further. If surveying protesters is a useful and realistic option that can deepen our knowledge about protest, how can we develop, extend, and codify protest surveying?

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    • Research Project

    Political mobilisation and the new communication technology. A multilevel study of "digital divide". 01/12/2005 - 31/05/2009

    Abstract

    Within the scientific literature, there is a broad consensus about the importance of mass participation as a defining characteristic of a well-functioning liberal democratic system. Various hypotheses have been formulated about the impact of internet on participation patterns. While some authors fear that internet will have a detrimental impact on participation levels, others argue that new forms of electronic communication will boost political participation, thus empowering citizens. Another element in the debate is the question whether internet will mobilize new groups of the population, that were underrepresented in more traditional forms of participation ('mobilization thesis'), or whether the new medium will simply reinforce existing patterns of inequality with regard to participation ('reinforcement thesis'). The basic, underlying question of this research project, therefore, is whether we can expect internet to have a positive or negative impact on the democratic character of participation and mobilization in Western societies. Thus far most scholars investigating the political impact of internet have been focusing exclusively on data on individual users, demonstrating a digital divide with regard to gender, age and education level. Yet, political participation always involves three levels. First, there is the individual level of the citizen who participates or not (micro). Second, one has to incorporate the organizational level of organizations and social movements recruiting and mobilizing people into participation (meso). Third, there is the level of the political system that is addressed by the political participation acts (macro). We will address all three levels simultaneously in this study, thus arriving at a more comprehensive understanding of the political impact of internet, than has been done in earlier studies. Our general research question, hence, can be specified into three subquestions: (1) does ICT reinforce or diminish existing individual-level participation inequalities? (micro); (2) does ICT lower the threshold for collective political actors wanting to mobilize the population (meso)?; (3) does ICT augment the impact of political mobilization on political decision-making (macro)? The research consists of a series of substudies tackling each of these three questions: 1) an overview of inequalities with regard to the political use of internet; 2) an analysis of the way social movement organizations use ICT to develop coalitions and to reach out to potential participants; 3) a study on internet as a campaign tool for political parties; 4) a study on the relation between available resources and effectiveness of website presence; 5) a comparative study on the way social movements use ICT for transnational mobilisation; 6) a policy oriented study on the organization of e-government as a way to support the communication flow between citizens and the political system. Three of these workpackages which will be conducted simultaneously with an identical study in the US or Canada, carried out by our international partners. Including these comparative approaches strengthens the validity of our research findings. This study builds on the previous expertise of all four research partners, with regard to social movement mobilization, impact of participation and political information, campaigns by political parties, and transnational social movement activism. In according with the rules for this program, the project will be conducted in three years time, leading to a comprehensive report on the effect of internet on citizens' participation and mobilization. The report will be relevant to policy-makers, social movements and civil society activists, but also for researchers working on political activism and political communication.

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    • Research Project

    Political agenda-setting and the media: who leads, who follows? 01/05/2005 - 30/04/2009

    Abstract

    The aim of this study is to assess whether, to what extent en how the mass media determine the political agenda. Due to their diverging research designs, previous studies resulted in contradictory outcomes. This project combines the methods of previous studies, quantitative (time series) and qualitative approaches (interviews), to overcome the limitations of the available studies. The research comprises time series analyses of media and political agendas, selection of ten cases for further analysis, a media framing analysis of media coverage of these cases and a series of interviews with privileged witnesses.

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    • Research Project

    Electronic Newsarchive. 01/01/2005 - 31/12/2011

    Abstract

    Clearly, news broadcasts on radio and television have become the most important source of information on current affairs in Western societies. Nevertheless, researchers do not have access to a well-established data base of these broadcasts. While newspapers are available in libraries, news broadcasts usually aren't accessible in this way, and this complicates research on media contents and effects. With this project, the possibility for creating an electronic media archive is being investigated. Radio and television news broadcasts will be archived electronically, and will be made public to the scientific community.

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    • Research Project

    Voting test 2004. 27/01/2004 - 31/12/2004

    Abstract

    This project is the scientific support for the VRT's election 2004 programmes Doe de Stemtest. The project collaborates with the programme makers to draft the questions and develops the statistical system that generates a voting advice.

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    • Research Project

    Political communication strategies of the extreme right (Vlaams Blok) in Flanders : a comparative and longitudinal perspective. 01/10/2003 - 30/09/2005

    Abstract

    This research focuses on the external political communication of the Flemish extreme-right party, the Vlaams Blok. We hypothesise that the political discourse of the Vlaams Blok is much more populist then the discourse of the other Flemish parties. We'll enquire this in a comparative (six major Flemish parties) and in a longitudinal (from 1987 onwards) way. The second hypothesis is that the political communication of the Vlaams Blok changed a lot. Only at the elections of 1995, 1999 en 2000 the Vlaams Blok really played the populist card and the Blok became a real protest party. We'll scrutinise both hypotheses empirically.

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    • Research Project

    Political agenda-setting and the media. Towards a longitudinal and multivariate model. 01/09/2003 - 31/08/2004

    Abstract

    Based on an unique longitudinal dataset, the role of the mass media in determining the Belgian political agenda will be scrutinised. Most research on media and political agenda-setting conclude that the media's role is only limited. The media are followers, not makers of politics. This preliminary conclusion will be reassessed using a dataset comprising the whole 1991-2000 dataset and consisting out of 10 agendas among which the mass media and a number of political agendas.

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    • Research Project

    Toward an Electronic Newsarchive in Flanders. Building a digital archive of current and retrospective news broadcasts of Flemish radio and television stations. 01/01/2003 - 31/12/2005

    Abstract

    Clearly, news broadcasts on radio and television have become the most important source of information on current affairs in Western societies. Nevertheless, researchers do not have access to a well-established data base of these broadcasts. While newspapers are available in libraries, news broadcasts usually aren't accessible in this way, and this complicates research on media contents and effects. With this project, the possibility for creating an electronic media archive is being investigated. Radio and television news broadcasts will be archived electronically, and will be made public to the scientific community.

    Researcher(s)

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    • Research Project

    On the role of the media during the Belgian election campaign of 2003. 01/10/2002 - 31/12/2004

    Abstract

    This project deals with the importance of the media in modern election campaigns. The media are not only the most important information channel by which politicians and parties can reach the voter, but also a key and independent actor in the campaign. We will analyze this double role by means of a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of the Flemish media during the elections of 2003 (newspapers + television). The project focuses on the Belgian elections, but the analysis will be conducted in an international comparative perspective (e.g. cooperation with Dutch research group).

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    • Research Project

    In-dept analysis of recent innovations in Flemish nature development policies. Research of interactive styles of policy making, and their actual impact in terms of participation, acceptation and legitimacy. 01/09/2002 - 31/08/2003

    Abstract

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      • Research Project

      'Who Elected WTO?' Political Legitimacy of International Organisations (EU and WTO). 01/03/2002 - 31/12/2004

      Abstract

      International organisations such as WTO, IMF, World Bank, FTAA, EU and G8 are faced with a problem of political legitimacy. Indeed, the anti-globalisation movement can be seen to mobilise not only against the negative social and ecological consequences of economic globalisation, but also against the so-called `undemocratic nature' of international decision making. The growing emigration of decision making powers from the nation state to international organisations has made the issue of legitimacy more salient. The geographic and social distance between the centre of decision making and the citizens has grown considerably, a key issue in the literature concerning multilevel governance. It is exactly this crisis of legitimacy, faced by international organisations, that makes up the focal point of our research project. For our case studies we opted for two very divergent international organisations, which can be seen to occupy the end positions on the continuum from supranational to intergovernmental: the European Union (EU) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It is impossible to include all aspects of legitimacy of international organisations in this project. For this reason, the project focusses on certain aspects. Central to the debate, of course, is the anti-globalisation movement. So we want to find out: Who are these people, What do they want? How do they mobilise? To get an in-depth understanding, we use a variety of research methods. Since international institutions are far removed from the general public, we can assume a significant role for the media in creating knowledge of and attitudes towards these organisations. To this end, an extensive media analysis will be conducted of a range of media, both longitudinal and centred around certain top meetings (Laken ' EU and Quatar ' WTO). How often and when do media report on the EU and WTO? In what way do they report on them? Political legitimacy is not just a matter of structures being more or less democratic. It is equally concerned with the way these political institutions are perceived. In this respect, the attitudes of the population towards the EU and WTO are very significant. Based on existing survey data, we try to analyse the attitudes of the Belgian population towards EU and WTO. These will be connected to the other aspects of legitimacy under study.

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      • Research Project

      In Search of 'New emotional movements'. An international and comparative research on a potentially new type of social movements. 01/01/2002 - 31/12/2005

      Abstract

      In this research we focus on the sociological uniqueness of the Belgian white movement. A lot of these characteristics don't fit in the traditional social movement theory: media alliance, heterogeneous supporters, almost no organisation, the central position of victims' Focussing on these characteristics we try to find out whether a number of well chosen other social movements in other countries share these features and whether we could speak of a new kind of social movements.

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      • Research Project

      Centre of Expertise for Environmental Policy Sciences (2001-2006). 01/10/2001 - 31/12/2006

      Abstract

      Scientific and policy oriented research within the environmental policy domain Valorisation of expertise Forge the critical mass necessary to build a centre of expertise Education of junior researchers in this field

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      • Research Project

      Political communication strategies of the extreme right (Vlaams Blok) in Flanders : a comparative and longitudinal perspective. 01/10/2001 - 30/09/2003

      Abstract

      This research focuses on the external political communication of the Flemish extreme-right party, the Vlaams Blok. We hypothesise that the political discourse of the Vlaams Blok is much more populist then the discourse of the other Flemish parties. We'll enquire this in a comparative (six major Flemish parties) and in a longitudinal (from 1987 onwards) way. The second hypothesis is that the political communication of the Vlaams Blok changed a lot. Only at the elections of 1995, 1999 en 2000 the Vlaams Blok really played the populist card and the Blok became a real protest party. We'll scrutinise both hypotheses empirically.

      Researcher(s)

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        • Research Project

        The strategies and political communication of the Flemish political parties 1987-2001 01/07/2001 - 30/09/2002

        Abstract

        The research aims to explain the electoral success of the Vlaams Blok. Three hypotheses are empirically scrutinised: (1) the Vlaams Blok is more than the other Flemish parties focused on winning elections (votes), in stead of determining policy or taking office; (2) the external political communications of the Vlaams Blok is characterised more than the communication of the other political parties by populism; (3) the political communications of the Vlaams Blok has evolved a lot between 1987 and 2001 and has become progressively more populist.

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          • Research Project

          Agenda setting in Belgium. 01/12/2000 - 29/04/2004

          Abstract

          It concerns a longitudinal (nineties), comparative (Flanders-Francophone Belgium), empirical research about the public agenda, the media agenda, the political agenda and the policy agenda and how they relate to each other. For all these agendas comparable data will be collected. The quantitative analysis will be complemented with several qualitative case studies.

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          • Research Project

          Social capital versus social-economic determination European comparative research on the performance of democracies. 01/10/2000 - 31/08/2001

          Abstract

          Is the performance of European democracies mainly determined by socio-economic factors or by socio-cultural factors. Among the socio-cultural factors, what is the influence of 'social capital' on the performance of a democracy, in a multivariate approach ?

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            • Research Project

            Protest demonstrations in Belgium in the nineties 01/01/2000 - 31/12/2001

            Abstract

            Belgium is a country of protest demonstrations. All major post-war political conflicts that made up the face of Belgian politics, were accompanied by massive protests and intensive demonstration waves. It could be argued that demonstrations in Belgium function as an accurate political barometer: through 'the street' the pulse of politics can somehow be felt. Furthermore, demonstrations can put long term socio-political transformations, empirically hard to grip, in another perspective: de-pillarization, shifting political cleavages, the crumbling legitimacy of institutions and the individualisation process that weakens the mobilisation capacity of organisations. Research into recent demonstrations can also put the White March into perspective. Only a large-scale research design will answer the major research questions. First we will make an inventory of all protest demonstrations on Belgian soil in the 1990-1997 period: what demonstrations took place and when? How many people participated? What were the themes they rallied around? The inventory is based on a complete analysis of newspaper reports on demonstrations in two Belgian quality newspapers, complemented with those coming from the national gendarmerie database. Additionally surveys will be taken executed on five up to ten demonstrations in a large enough sample of demonstrators. An in-between comparison then allow us to describe the specificity of the profile of the different demonstrators, their specific attitudes and beliefs, the mobilisation process and their demonstration experience. Finally we will look into studies measuring the experience with and attitude towards both conventional and non-conventional means of action of the population at large. The Interuniversitair Steunpunt Politiek Opinieonderzoek (ISPO, interuniversitary centre of political opinion research) has been asked to add some additional questions on demonstration participation and on attitudes towards demonstrations as a means of political action in their third wave of surveying planned after the next parliamentary elections of June 1999.

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              • Research Project

              Belgian and Flemish ministerial cabinets as policy makers. 01/01/1998 - 31/12/2001

              Abstract

              This research focussen on the role of the Belgian and Flemisch ministerial cabinets in political decision making and implementation. What function do they perform ? The research is mainly empirically and has a qualitative and a quantitative aspect.

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                • Research Project

                The juridical definition of the labor concept in social law. 01/01/1997 - 31/12/2001

                Abstract

                Current social security cannot solve the problem of social exclusion. The research focusses on 3 topics : the juridical definition of the labor concept; the juridical definition of social exclusion; the possible social structures representing the excluded.

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                  • Research Project

                  'The new social question' 01/01/1997 - 31/12/2001

                  Abstract

                  From an intellectual perspective , indications for the developments summed up above are still not connected. THE IUAP aims at the production of a coherent set of answers to the following questions: To what extent is there an interrelationship between the socioeconomic polarisation on the educational dimension; the limits of the present social protection arrangements; the emergence of the new ideological and political cleavages; the policies that are currently being pursed and the developments of policy utopias? Are the current social problems really substantially different from the problems in the past to speak of a new social question? Why are the instruments of the welfare state powerless with regard to the (new) social dividing lines? How should the re-orientation of the care schemes be envisages? What part can the old and new , social and political movements play in the re-orientation of the welfare state?

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                    • Research Project

                    Civil society and policy making. 01/01/1997 - 31/12/1998

                    Abstract

                    What's the impact of the civil society on the Flemish and Belgium decision-making ? The study will focuss on three policy-domaincs : environment, media and social security. Each of this policies will be analysed with respect to institutionalised consultive mechanisms, the participation of organisations in concertation settings and their impact on the final policy outcomes.

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                      • Research Project