Other Networks

Changing Patterns of Participation and Representation in Europe

This Research Network is funded by the Flemish Research Foundation FWO. The Research Network encourages international exchange and mobility on the topics of political participation and representation. The Network organizes conferences, guest lectures, work shops, etc. All activities of the FWO research network will be announced also on the PartiRep website.

The Research Network also offers opportunities for young postdoctoral scholars for an extended stay in one of the Flemish member institutions. Please contact the chair for further information.

The members of this network are:


The network is administered at the Department of Political Science of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, by Marc Hooghe (chair) and Sofie Marien (secretary). For any further information, please contact Marc.Hooghe@soc.kuleuven.be or Sofie.Marien@soc.kuleuven.be


Members and Activists of Political Parties

Political parties continue to play an essential role in the life of modern democracies. The empirical study of political parties thus constitutes a crucial part in the analysis of the workings of democratic regimes across the world. One central element of the analysis of political parties from the perspective of political sociology is the study of party members and activists.

Following some pioneering work in the 1990s, the empirical study of party members and activists has become a research field of growing importance. Surveys of party members have a long tradition in some countries but are virtually unknown in others. A broad range of methodological approaches is being employed to study individual parties and groups of parties defined by specific contexts such as national political systems or ideological orientation. Cross-national and cross-temporal analyses of party members and activists have been rare in the past but are becoming more common. With an increasing amount of empirical studies being conducted, there is a need to create an international forum for the exchange of experiences and ideas.

This working group aims to bring together researchers from around the world engaged in the empirical study of party members and activists. Understanding the motivations and actions of people involved in political parties remains one of the key challenges of political sociology. Who joins political parties and why, who becomes an activist, what do members and activists think, what do they do, what determines whether they stay in the party or leave? What do these analyses tell us about the social and political role of political parties? Is their importance declining or are we witnessing a change in their shape and function? In an era of increasingly fluid party politics, the role of party members and activists in defining agendas and political strategies may actually increase. Which theoretical perspectives are most useful in explaining the behaviour of members and activists? These are just some of the many questions that empirical studies of party members and activists may help to answer.

The working group provides a forum for researchers from around the world to share their experiences and facilitate international collaboration in ongoing and future research projects. The discussion of the methodological and conceptual problems of party membership research will play an important part. The group is open to social scientists employing a range of theoretical and empirical perspectives, including both qualitative and quantitative approaches.

This working group aims at launching a series of activities over the comings years, including the organisation of further panels, workshops and conferences dedicated to examining the key research challenges in the study of party members and activists.

More information can be found on: www.projectmapp.eu