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Training Network in Electoral Democracy

Final Report Summary - ELECDEM (Training Network in Electoral Democracy)

ELECDEM - Training Network in Electoral Democracy
www.elecdem.eu
Network Coordinator: Professor Susan Banducci (s.a.banducci@exeter.ac.uk)
Network Administrator: Fiona Raffael (f.raffael@exeter.ac.uk)

ELECDEM provided training, networking opportunities, industry experience and research to supervision to 14 ESRs and 4 ERs. The network brought together 11 expert teams from 9 European countries, including 1 from an associated country and 2 new Member States and 2 full industry partners. During the life of the network, we added 3 additional associate partners (CEVIPOF, Koc University and TNS BMRB) that offered training and secondment opportunities to the researchers. The network of scientists, including the visiting scientist and the invited workshop speakers, is comprised of international researchers in electoral democracy. In combination with the visiting scientist and the associated and industry partners, the training and scientific expertise gathered makes possible a ‘one of a kind’ research training experience for early researchers that could not be obtained at a single university. We developed and continue to maintain close ties with our industry partners in particular that have led to further collaborative projects. The network has provided a new generation of scholars that are involved in the comparative study of elections and in particular the European Election Study 2014 (a continuation of FP7 funded PIREDEU [grant agreement no: 211810] and the 2009 European Election Study).

Through coordinated supervision, specialised workshops and training events and industry secondment, we met our objectives to deliver training in advanced multi-level techniques, content and text analysis, cross-national surveys and experimentation. These workshops were delivered by world leading experts and had the added benefit of allowing the researchers to develop relationships with these leading scholars. In addition to the above key methodologies, researchers also developed expertise in neurobiological approaches to political behavior and vote advice applications. Additional training events beyond the planned 6 were organised by partners and afforded additional opportunities for researchers to engage with leading academics and be exposed to advanced techniques for generating and analysing multi-level data. All workshops were open to external participants and in all 78 external researchers participated in these events. In a project end survey, in addition to training, the workshops were highly rated by ELECDEM researchers and external participants for their networking opportunities and the chance to meet leading scholars.

Secondments with industry partners contributed to the overall training and research profiles of the ERs and ESRs, built on existing and developed into long-term collaborations and led to scientific publications. Researchers completed secondments with the European Parliament, TNS Opinion, TNS BMRB, Kieskompas and the Institite of Survey Research (Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, University of Michigan). During these secondments, researchers applied advanced quantitative social research skills (TNS Opinion, Kieskompas), trialed new techniques for data collection (Kieskompas); collected bespoke data (TNS BMRB); wrote reports (ISR, European Parliament) which contributed to skills development but also impacted on the partners. Our collaboration with TNS Opinion and Kieskompas in particular has led to collaboration on further projects (European Election Study 2015 and VOTEADVICE MC EID, respectively).

In terms of the scientific outcomes, the 18 research projects examined the effects of globalization, communication systems and institutions on the quality of electoral democracy. In addition to the final reports, there were 9 published journal articles, 1 published book review and 3 book chapters published by the ERs and ESRs. A number of these were published with supervisors but, equally, the ESRs had the opportunity to publish as lead authors and collaborate with other early career researchers. A further 9 journal articles are currently under review at peer reviewed journals, and another 5 articles are being written in collaboration between ESRs and/or supervisors.

Our core scientific objectives were to investigate the impact of globalization, communication and institutions on electoral democracy. Important findings include:

• Comparison across generations of voters reveals that in established democracies of Western Europe left/right ideology and structural factors such as social class, religion and the place of residence (urban or rural) exert weaker effects on party preferences for cohorts born after 1959 when compared to older cohorts. For the post 1959 generation, there is a rise in importance of the issue of immigration in structuring party support (Agnieska Walczak, WP2 final report).
• Vote advice applications, a new technology, do assist voters in making electoral choices particularly amongst those who are exhibit information seeking justifications for using VAA (Matthew Wall, WP18 final Report).
• Using country specific measures of reported turnout reduces the tendency to overreport voting in a cross-national survey (Steven Schwarzer, WP4 final report).
• In newer democracies, the media has a more conditional impact on political engagement than in established democracies. Increased media attention does not automatically lead to great engagement in newer democracies (Marketa Bilska, WP16 final report).

The network has impact on the researchers, the participating institutions, our industry partners and the wider academic community. The researchers have developed skills that have led to further employment in academic and social research, careers in private industry and published scientific articles. Our partners, both academic and industry, have benefited from deepening existing links and developing new ones that have resulted in further funded projects, new methodologies and information recognition of training modules. By opening our training events, sharing via social media and interacting with other cross-national research projects we have benefited the wider academic community.

Further scientific collaboration ELECDEM extends and builds on the FP7 project PIREDEU [grant agreement no: 211810], a three-year design study to assess the feasibility of an upgrade to the European Election Studies that will provide an infrastructure for research into citizenship, political participation, and electoral democracy in the European Union.