May 27, 2021

Second ERC Advanced Grant for UAntwerp professor Stefaan Walgrave

Several University of Antwerp researchers have received ERC grants in recent years. Prof. Stefaan Walgrave(UAntwerp) has now received an ERC Advanced Grant for the second time. In addition, seven international researchers have been awarded MSCA Individual Fellowships for research stays at the University of Antwerp. 

In a democracy, politicians should always take public opinion into account. In actual practice, however, this only happens selectively. Stefaan Walgrave, a professor of political sciences, plans to conduct a large European research project to map the process. The European Commission has awarded him a prestigious ERC Advanced Grant, a testament to his expertise and groundbreaking work in his field of study. ‘A democracy presupposes that policymakers respond to what the general population cares about’, he explains. ‘However, previous research has shown that the link between what people want and the policies they get is selective. Responsiveness varies greatly depending on the issue, public preference, the country and the time.’ 

Walgrave wants to find out why politicians’ response to public opinion is so fragmented. In order to do this, he will be conducting a large-scale comparative study in eight countries with diverse electoral and party systems: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Israel, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. ‘The project aims to examine how politicians appraise public opinion. For instance, do politicians think that people have carefully thought-out opinions, or that their opinions are mostly driven by self-interest? By examining how politicians assess public opinion – be it positively or negatively – and how that assessment ultimately affects their actions and policies, this research may lead to a shift in the way people think about democratic representation.’

The research project was named POLEVPOP, which is short for ‘How politicians evaluate public opinion’. Over a period of five years, the European Research Council will provide funding to the tune of 2.5 million euros.

MSCA Individual Fellowships

In addition to this prestigious ERC grant, seven postdoctoral researchers from six different countries have been selected for MSCA Individual Fellowships at the University of Antwerp. All seven research fellows will work at our university for two-year periods between June 2021 and September 2024. Their research is situated in a range of very different fields: social sciences and humanities, physics, chemistry, engineering, environment and geosciences.

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