Political Sociology

This discipline has expertise in areas including national identity, ethnicity, and social movements.

Members of the Department engaged in political sociology:

Research students: [listing not yet complete]

  • Christina Fuhr, 'Jewish Identity Creation in Contemporary Britain'
  • Samina Luthfa, 'Confronting the Juggernaut of Extraction: Local, National, and Transnational Mobilization against the Phulbari Coal Mine in Bangladesh'

Current research projects

The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) project is an international collaboration between surveys conducted after national elections. It is designed to facilitate comparative research into electoral behaviour, focusing in particular on the impact of political and electoral systems on how people vote. This aim is achieved by fielding a common set of questions immediately after each participating country’s national election. This ESRC funded project ensures British participation in the second round by administering the current CSES module of questions shortly after 2005 British general election and by undertaking analysis of the resulting data alongside the data collected by other participating countries.  The analysis will concentrate on two sets of debates. The first is between those who regard democracy as primarily a means of securing representation and those who consider it a mechanism for making government accountable.  The CSES data make it possible to address this debate by looking at how the electoral system influences how people vote and their satisfaction with the way democracy works in their country.  The second is about the impact of electoral systems on turnout, in particular whether proportional representation is more likely to encourage people to vote than first-past-the-post and if so why.

Research Team: Dr Steve Fisher (Principal Investigator), Laurence Lessard-Phillips, Dr John Curtice, and Sara Hobolt.

The Ethnic Minority British Electoral Survey (EMBES)is lead by Professor Anthony Heath and is sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). See information on EMBES - the Ethnic Minority British Election Study.

This project examines whether there have been long-term changes in the incidence, sources and nature of traditional social identities such as those based on Britishness, religion, class and politics and whether these identities have been supplanted in any way by newer identities such as ones based on education, age, gender, consumerism or anti-capitalism. In so doing we aim to Test claims derived from modernisation theory about the changing nature of social group membership in post-industrial society.

To assess whether the character of traditional identities have changed we are paying particular attention to two sets of relationships. First, has the relationship between identity and current social position and/or parental identity weakened, suggesting that people have become freer to choose their own identities? Second, we explore whether the relationships between identity and values someone upholds have weakened, suggesting that traditional social identities have declined in influence.

We are currently preparing two journal articles for publication, one is evaluating class identities over time from a quantitative approach whereas the other article is based on qualitative research exploring the meaning and experience of ‘class’ in contemporary Britain.

This project is funded by the ESRC within the Identities and Social Action Programme.

Research Team: Professor Anthony Heath (Principal Investigator), Professor John Curtice (Strathclyde and National Centre for Social Research), Dr Gabriella Elgenius (Research Fellow) and Ms. Jean Martin (Senior Research Fellow).

Recent Publications include:
Heath, Anthony, Martin, Jean & Elgenius, Gabriella (2007) “Who do we think we are? The decline of traditional social identities”. In Park, A., Curtice, J., Thomson, K., Phillips, M. and Johnson, M. (eds.), British Social Attitudes: the 23rd Report – Perspectives on a changing society. London: Sage.

Following recently-completed projects on British identity arising from ESRC-funded work on ‘National Identity and Constitutional Change’ and ‘Being British: National Identity in a Global Context’, the Department has been commissioned by the Ministry of Justice to write a report on ‘British identity, its sources and possible implications for civic attitudes and behaviour’ for Lord Goldsmith’s Citizenship Review. The report looks at the survey evidence on trends over time in British identity, British national pride and a sense of belonging or attachment to Britain. It then moves on to consider the main drivers of a sense of belonging, focusing in particular on age, ethnic and religious groups, overseas birth and socio-economic deprivation before finally turning to the implications of a sense of belonging, or its absence, for ‘civic’ attitudes and behaviour. It is expected that the Report will be published in late February 2008 in conjunction with the final report of the Citizenship Review.

Project team: Prof Anthony Heath (Principal Investigator) and Jane Roberts (Nuffield College).

The Department is collaborating with the Centre for the Study of Developing Studies, Delhi, on a programme of research on social stratification and electoral behaviour.

The research is based on the series of nationally representative sample surveys of the Indian electorate. These surveys have been co-ordinated by a team from the CSDS (led by Dr V. B. Singh, Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar) and have been conducted by research teams in the individual states. Work in progress includes a study of trends over time in social mobility and on the interrelationship between class and caste in India (with Sanjay Kumar), on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (Alistair Macmillan) and on political change in India (with Yogendra Yadav). Papers have already been published in the Economic and Political Weekly on the social bases of support for Congress and for the BJP.

This programme of research is supported by the British Academy.

Continuing the theme of identity, this project will explore the notion of ‘homeland’ within Diaspora communities in Britain and the extent to which this influences identification with Britain. The overall aim is to link understandings of ‘homeland’ to perceptions of ‘Britishness’, to circumstances of integration more generally and to ways in which individuals and groups seek to maintain or change their cultural identities in new settings.

The focus is the Polish and the Sikh communities in Britain, their expressions of belonging and identification as communicated through celebrations and commemorations. By comparing the experiences of a Christian (Catholic) community of European origin with a non-Christian community of non-European origin, we are able to address the impact of nationality, ethnicity, religion and ‘race’ in the identification process. Moreover, through an understanding of ceremonies and rituals, their origins and use, we gain insights into community building and ceremonial change in Britain. The responses of the ‘dominant/white culture’ and the extent to which Diaspora communities are included in the traditional celebrations/commemorations of Britishness will also be evaluated.

Research Team: Dr. Gabriella Elgenius (Research Fellow and British Academy Fellow)