Funded projects


Title: Towards a new era of representative democracy - Activating European citizens' trust in times of crises and polarization (ActEU)

General information:

  • Homepage
  • Presentation video
  • Start date: March 2023
  • Funding: Horizon Europe - Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, 2021-2027) within the funding line "HORIZON-CL2-2022-DEMOCRACY-01 (Reshaping democracies)
  • Collaborative partners: University of Duisburg-Essen, Saarland University, Paris Lodron University Salzburg (Austria), Trans European Policy Studies Association (Belgium), Institute of International Relations Prague (Czech Republic), Abo Akademi University (Finland), Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques Paris (France), Institut Catholique de Lille (France), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), Universita Degli Studi di Trento (Italy), SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw (Poland), Universidad de Oviedo (Spain)

Contents: The ActEU project aims to find answers to the following questions: How can we conceptualise and empirically measure political trust and legitimacy beyond the usual survey question "How much trust do you have in the Parliament?"? Does the multi-level character of European representative democracies require an identical level of support from citizens at regional, national and EU level? To what extent does social polarisation on key political issues of our time - immigration, climate change and gender inequality - challenge political trust in and legitimacy of democratic political systems? And what can policymakers and civil society do to address these challenges?

ActEU has two overarching goals: In phase 1, we examine the persistent problems of declining trust, legitimacy and representation in Europe with a special focus on the polarisation of societies and the multi-level structures of the EU. To this end, the team based at Saarland University and led by Prof. Dr. Daniela Braun provides a conceptual framework for political attitudes, behaviour and representation across Europe and creates an original empirical infrastructure based on an innovative combination of methods and newly collected quantitative and qualitative empirical data (focus groups, experimental surveys, web scraping). In phase 2, these results will feed directly into the development of a toolkit of remedial actions to improve political trust in and legitimacy of European representative democracies (including through a civil society network, Youth Democracy Labs in 13 European cities; "Cartooning for democracy").


Title: Policy recommendations to regain feminist losers as mainstream voters (UNTWIST)

General information:

  • Homepage
  • Presentation video​​​​​​​
  • Start date: February 2023
  • Funding: Horizon Europe - Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, 2021-2027) within the funding line "HORIZON-CL2-2021-DEMOCRACY-01 (Protecting and nurturing democracies)
  • Collaborative partners: Universidad Pablo de Olavide de Sevilla (coordinator), Universidad de la Iglesia de Deusto Entidad Religiosa, Tarsadalomtudomanyi Kutatokozpont Budapest, Roskilde Universitet, Fundacio Vit - Visualizacion per a la Transparencia, Association of European Citizen Science - ECSA E.V., Saarland University

Contents: UNTWIST investigates the question of whether extreme populist parties use and fill a gap in the political spectrum that has emerged in the recent past: Do these parties actually have the potential to represent the population that has been let down by current mainstream feminist discourses? Or have mainstream parties not yet found a suitable strategy for responding to gender-related conflicts? Against the background of these questions, new political strategies are to be developed and implemented in order to counteract the anti-gender politics of parties on the extreme (and especially right-wing) fringe.

A major goal of UNTWIST is thus to enable (non-radical/populist) parties in Europe to adequately represent gender-specific interests in the population. The work package conducted at Saarland University under the direction of Prof. Dr. Daniela Braun examines the role of political parties and their thematic positioning in this context.



Title: Supporters and Opponents of the European Union: The Consequences of an Increasing Division in and for Europe (ProConEU)

General information:

  • Duration: March 2020 to February 2023
  • Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of the "Cohesion in Europe" funding line
  • Collaborative partners: University of Mannheim (Prof. Hermann Schmitt), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Dr. Eftichia Teperoglou) and Newcastle University (Dr. Sebastian Popa)

Contents: The gap between supporters and opponents of the European Union (EU) has widened unmistakably in recent decades. Open European conflicts, such as the debate on Brexit and the question of how to deal with populist and politically extreme challenges, are no longer a rarity, but rather threaten to intensify them. The resulting process of alienation between EU member states and between individual states and supranational institutions is one of the greatest social and political challenges of our time. Within the framework of the ProConEU project, we are therefore investigating the division of European society on the basis of the content of party competition, the attitudes of the population and the communication between elites and citizens in order to grasp its strength, permanence and consequences of this division with regard to the future of the EU, European integration as well as liberal democracy in Europe in general.

The aim is to examine the extent to which a new transnational fault line manifests itself in party politics (political elites), the behaviour and attitudes of the electorate and the new social media (interaction between political elites and the population).

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