Research

COMPARATIVE POLICY AGENDA DYNAMICS

The Politics of Attention: West European Politics in the Times of Change
The Comparative agendas project is funded by the European Social Foundation (EUROCORES 2007) and is lead by Stefann Walgrave, University of Antwerp. As the European extension of US Policy Agendas Project, the project brings together a broad network of scholars developing systematic indicators of issue attention and politicization across Western Europe on
(1) Parliamentary activities
(2) Executive activities
(3) Political parties activities
(4) Direct democracy (popular initiatives, optional referendums, mandatory referendums)

COMPARATIVE  POLICIES ON MORALITY ISSUES

Morality Politics in a Comparative Perspective Project
International project on morality politics in a comparative perspective. This project constitutes the first systematic comparative study of politicization and policy-making on morality issues such as euthanasia, embryo and stem cells research, same-sex marriage, abortion and reproductive technologies across West European countries.
The project is driven by two sets of questions:
1. What causes cross-national variation in the politicization of morality issues? How to explain the raise and fall of values-loaded issues on the policy agendas?
2. What are the policy consequences of variation in politicization of morality issues? Does politicization lead to specific policy choices or rather it only shapes the nature of the policy process?

I. Engeli, C. Green-Pedersen, and L. Thorup Larsen (eds) (2012). Morality Politics in Western Europe. Palgrave Macmillan.


Ph.D. Dissertation on policy-making on value-driven issues such as abortion and assisted reproductive technology
My dissertation analyzes the extent to which public controversies with a moral dimension (such as abortion and assisted reproductive technologies) lead to significantly different government responses, as some public policies scholars argue. To this end, I studied public policy-making on issues of reproduction in France and Switzerland from 1960 to 2005. Through an in-depth qualitative study combined with the QCA technique, my dissertation demonstrates the importance of taking into account the configurational impact on institutional interests and ideal factors to explain the evolution of public policies on controversial issues.

GENDER and Politics

Gender gap in turnout and political attitudes
I analyze compositional and conditional gender effect in turnout and political attitudes. In a recent co-authored article (Engeli et al. 2006), I show that there is a persistent gender gap in turnout in Switzerland and that the gender gap is due to the conditional impact of political attitudes on men and women’s electoral behavior: at equal level of political sophistication and interest, Swiss women still participate less than men in the elections. Currently, using the last three waves of the World Survey data, I am extending the study of gender conditional effect on the ongoing transformation of the gender gap in political attitudes in Switzerland, a topic, which so far has remained under-researched. I show that women, young and old, are increasingly leaning towards the left, while men’s self-positioning tends to be more stable across time (Bütikofer and Engeli, currently under review).

Gender dynamics in the election process
Next to the study of the gender gap at the individual level, I also work on the impact of the electoral system and the level of election on women and men’s electoral success. Various conference papers on the Swiss case (Bütikofer and Engeli 2007; Bütikofer et al. 2007) show that the electoral system doesn’t exert any impact anymore on women’s access to the Swiss Parliament. Indeed, women candidates to the upper house, elected by majoritarian rule, hold very similar chance of success as women running for a seat in the lower house, elected through the proportional system. However, for both chambers, male candidates still do better than female candidates.
I am currently extending this research in a cross-country perspective in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the gender dynamics in the electoral process. Encompassing a large number of West European countries, my aim is to systematically assess the validity of the different explanations sustained in the literature and to empirically test the impact of the electoral system and the level of election (European, national, sub-national).