Research at the CESPOL: the rigorous comparative analysis of politics

Research area: politics

The CESPOL’s research area is ‘politics’ in its various dimensions: political ideas, interactions between social and political players, citizens and voters, state and public institutions, political decision-making and its outcomes. This object is analyzed at all levels (local, subnational/regional, national, European, transnational), following a theoretically pluralist approach and exploiting rigorous empirical methodologies: qualitative, comparative, quantitative and participatory. The CESPOL is also a locus for methodological innovation.

Three main research themes
The CESPOL teams are conducting research on numerous topics that can be brought under three main research themes:
• Institutions and institutional design in the context of liberal democracies as well as in emerging democracies and political systems in transition: contemporary political regimes; executives, parliaments and electoral systems; political agenda; institutional engineering; regional democracy and regional political systems; federalism; political decision-making; participatory and deliberative democracy; democratic innovations and transformations; Europeanization; globalization and governance.
• Collective players, organized civil society and political supply and demand: political parties, electoral campaigns; pressure groups, interest groups and lobbies; social movements and collective action; social mobilizations and their impact on political decision-making gender and political parties.
• Citizens and politics: political attitudes, identities and behavior: voting behavior; political culture; political activism; social and political identities; political socialization; legitimacy; attitudes and behavior of political elites; gender and political behavior; political participation.

Levels of analysis: from local to transnational

The CESPOL delves into its research themes at multiple levels: local level; regional and sub-national level; national level and in particular the ‘Belgian case’; European level (around specific topics such as EU lobbying, European identity, perceptions of Europe and European elections); transnational level. The CESPOL’s rigorous comparative approach enables its researchers to integrate this multi-level analysis.

Cutting-edge methodologies: comparative, quantitative, qualitative and participatory

The CESPOL displays cutting-edge expertise in terms of empirical methods in political science (and more broadly in social sciences). Beyond the exploitation of various methods in ‘multimethod’ designs, the CESPOL is also recognized as a locus for methodological development, both in the comparative, quantitative, qualitative and participatory approaches. In particular:

• Comparative methods: systematic comparison; configurational comparative methods (Qualitative Comparative Analysis - QCA) via the coordination of the COMPASSS international network; quantitative comparative (cross-country) analyses [contact: viaBenoît Rihoux]
• Quantitative and mixed methods: survey design and implementation; analysis of survey data;; comparison of data across time and space, via the PIOP; formal methods; psyshological models, mixed models, rational choice models [contact: via Pierre Baudewyns:Pierre.Baudewyns@uclouvain.be]
• Qualitative and mixed methods: qualitative comparison ; interviewing techniques in a comparative context; discourse analysis ; focus groups; mixed methods research design [contact: via Virginie Van Ingelgom]
• Participatory and deliberative methods: design, organization and evaluation of participatory tools and deliberative mini-publics; analysis of participation and deliberation; research on the actors; systemic and comparative approach of democratic innovations and transformations [contact: viaMin Reuchamps]

Research feeding into professionalised Masters training

[texte] The research projects in which CESPOL members are involved feed various courses and seminars (NB: several of which at taught in English) giving a professional edge to students, in particular in the specialised modules on “democratic innovations and transformations” and in “Belgian and comparative politics ” in the Masters in political science (general orientation) .