New centre launches to understand the politics behind it all

November 30, 2020

Laura Stephenson is Director of the Centre for the Study of Political Behaviour

“So much of what we do is political,” said Laura Stephenson, “Understanding how people behave as citizens – what influences us, what gets us engaged, what people believe - is a growing area of importance.”

Stephenson, Professor in the Department of Political Science, is the director of the recently launched Centre for the Study of Political Behaviour (CSPB). The CSPB brings together researchers from across the Faculty of Social Science, as well as King’s University College and the Ivey School of Business, to study political behaviour.

“Our goal is to enhance the study of political behaviour at Western, to bring people together and to facilitate interdisciplinary discussions,” said Stephenson.

The CSPB joins the six other centres that make up the Network for Economics and Social Trends (NEST). The work done through the CSPB will be related to the work undertaken by the other NEST centres. Stephenson points to the use of big data in the study of political behaviour as an example connecting the CSPB to the Centre for Computational and Quantitative Social Science. Social inequality and migration are also both political issues and are areas examined by other centres.

The Centre will act as an institutional home for the activities of the Consortium on Electoral Democracy/ Consortium de la démocratie électoral (C-Dem). C-Dem conducts the long-running Canadian Election Study, as well as electoral studies at the provincial level, to facilitate the study of changing trends in how Canadians feel about democracy, react to issues and perceive politicians, and how these attitudes impact their views and vote choice.

While the centre is launching in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and related restrictions on meeting, centre members are still engaging in online reading groups and speaking events. Stephenson foresees a more formal speaker series in the future, as well as events intended to facilitate interest from undergraduate and graduate students.

Stephenson feels that research from the centre, and events hosted by the CSPB, can help broaden student perspectives of what studying political behaviour means. “There are lots of faculty members who study political behaviour, but not a lot of students that do,” said Stephenson. “There will be a lot of opportunities for students to get involved and use the data that will be available through C-Dem.”

“I think there is a renewed importance in understanding political behaviour,” said Stephenson. “With the U.S. election, provincial elections, and protests against school re-opening policies, it’s become obvious that studies of people’s behaviour are important – not only what people do, but also what motivates them.”

Along with Stephenson, other members of the Centre include:

  • Christopher Alcantara, Professor, Political Science
  • Robert Andersen, Ivey School of Business
  • Cameron Anderson, Associate Professor, Political Science
  • David Armstrong, Associate Professor, Political Science
  • Edward Bell, Professor of Sociology, Brescia
  • Alex Benson, Assistant Professor, Psychology
  • Joanie Bouchard, Postdoctoral Researcher, Political Science
  • Miranda Goode, Associate Professor, Ivey Business School
  • Andrea Lawlor, Associate Professor, Political Science, King's College
  • Matthew Lebo, Professor and Chair, Political Science
  • Julie Aitken Shermer, Professor, DAN Department of Management & Organizational Studies
  • Zachary Taylor, Assistant Professor, Political Science
  • Mathieu Turgeon, Associate Professor, Political Science
  • Anna Zajacova, Associate Professor, Sociology

Related Stories:

Building Partnerships to Strengthen Democracy

Recognizing a year of incubating new ideas with NEST

Laura Stephenson named as Faculty Scholar