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Research projects

The Institute is currently carrying out and planning major research projects that examine contemporary and highly significant political, economic and social themes.

Trust in Public Life

What makes people trust or distrust politicians, public institutions and businesses? What do we mean by trust? Are there different forms of trust that are more relevant to different institutions? Based on key work on political theory, this project seeks to establish empirically whether different institutions require different forms of trust. The answers will help us understand whether public institutions such as the NHS are trusted or distrusted in ways that are similar to or different from private institutions such as supermarkets, as well as helping institutions and businesses to maximise the forms of trust most appropriate and relevant to their mission.

Understanding Elections

How do people respond to political parties’ messages during elections? How is campaigning developing? What lessons can campaigning organisations learn from election campaigns and vice versa? Building upon a project that began in 1992, this research examines election campaigning at the local level using a combination of surveys and interviews with key party officials. The project shows how party campaigning has progressed from traditional techniques based on voluntary activity to more modern approaches such as personalised direct mail, telephone voter identification and Internet campaigning.

Transparency and Regulation in Public Life

Increased regulation has become a significant aspect of public life. In response to growing calls for openness and transparency, organisations that operate in the public sphere need to ensure that they can demonstrate honesty and integrity at all times. But why are some areas of public life more regulated than others? What prompts greater regulation? Does regulation represent a response to a problem or is it the logical outcome of good governance? This project interrogates these questions but also examines the costs of regulation and whether they outweigh the accrued benefits. Critically, it also reflects on the impact of public opinion.

Policies of Multiculturalism

While some scholars claim policies of multiculturalism are used to reduce fear of cultural difference and the discrimination and exclusion of cultural minorities, other scholars, politicians and journalists claim these policies foster residential segregation, legitimise morally problematic practices, encourage radicalism and much else. This research examines the history and nature of these policies since the 1970s, examines the quality of the arguments that defend and criticise them such that think tanks cite this work, civil servants in the Canadian Federal Government use this work to assess the efficacy of their policies and this research is discussed by UK parliamentarians.

Committee Assignment Politics

How do political parties assign members to serve on legislative committees? Are MPs punished or rewarded for prior knowledge in a policy area when committee assignments are given? Building on theories from legislative studies, this project examines committee assignments in a variety of political systems. The research will help us understand how organisations (political parties) distribute their limited resources (MPs) on different tasks (committees). The initial findings show that prior knowledge of a policy area is still a highly valued commodity for a political party in assigning committee membership although the effect is declining.

Borders in Europe

How do international borders shape social relations in border regions? What impact do historical experiences have on development trajectories in European border regions? How effective are EU-funded programmes to improve integration across borders? This ongoing research seeks to develop a comparative framework to answer these questions. Focusing particularly on socio-psychological aspects of life in different European border regions, the research evaluates different policies designed to improve life in border regions, and suggests ways of improving them.

Katja Sarmiento-Mirwaldt
  • Evaluation of the influence of small EU-financed projects on cross-border relations between the inhabitants of the Polish-German border region, May 2013 - June 2014 (Polish-German Science Foundation; €10,000)
Justin Fisher
Varun Uberoi (International Collaborator)
  • Cultural and Religious Diversity in Four Contexts: A Comparative Study of Identity and the Regulation of The Religious, Sept 2012 - 2017 (Social Science and Humanities Research Council; $250,000)
Varun Uberoi
  • Inclusive Britishness-A Multiculturalist Advance RES-622-26-669, June 2012 – Dec 2012 (Economic and Social Research Council; £900)
  • Multicultural Nation-Building, May 2012 - May 2013 (International Council of Canadian Studies Faculty Research Programme, $3900)
  • Nation-Building Through Multiculturalism, Sept 2011 - Sept 2012 (British Academy; £4,079.83)
Katja Sarmiento-Mirwaldt
  • Attitudes towards political ethics and misconduct in France, July 2011 - June 2013 (British Academy; £7,500)