Research area on “Multidimensional Representation” (coordinated by Jelle Koedam)

The aim of this research program is to enhance our understanding of democratic representation in advanced industrial societies. It examines the relationship between citizens and elites in a changing political environment. A variety of research and teaching activities contribute to this program, as well as to the Chair of Comparative Politics and the Department of Political Science at UZH at large.

Dramatic social and political developments are challenging the nature of democratic representation in Europe and beyond. Globalization, European integration, growing inequality, and a new information environment are putting the continued responsiveness and accountability of political actors to the test. New issues have reached the forefront of political debate, such as climate change and immigration, in parallel with the rise of populist challenger parties.

In an attempt to understand and evaluate these developments, this research program focuses in particular on the increased multidimensionality of electoral representation. Multiple ideological divides—primarily between the economic left and right, and a progressive-conservative opposition on cultural matters—now best describe and structure the multitude of policy issues that inform party and voter behavior. The concept of multidimensionality fundamentally challenges our understanding of democratic congruence and responsiveness, and requires us to reconsider our established notions of party strategy, voter attitudes, salience, and political accountability.

Bringing together insights from spatial models of elections, cleavage and alignment studies, and salience theory, our ongoing work focuses on:

  1. Party behavior and strategy
  2. Voter choice and attitudes
  3. Political institutions
  4. Measurement

Concretely, our ongoing research activities include projects on parties’ positional changes along different ideological dimensions, their attempts to evade and manipulate said issues and dimensions, and voters’ multidimensional preferences. In addition, we are engaged in continued efforts to develop new measures of multidimensional salience and polarization, among others.

Relevant teaching activities include seminars on the interaction between party and electoral systems, a comparative evaluation of the left-right dimension, and supervision of BA and MA theses on political representation, broadly construed.

For information on working papers and upcoming events (e.g. conferences), please contact Jelle Koedam (koedam@ipz.uzh.ch).