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Vacancy PhD Researcher Project “ ‘Mind the gap’? Examining political congruence in a comparative

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    Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
    Political sciences
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    23/11/2018 23:00 - Europe/Brussels
    Belgium › Brussels

The Department of Political Science at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) is hiring 1 PhD researchers for the project “‘Mind the gap’? Examining political congruence in a comparative perspective ” funded as 3-year research project from the ULB (Action de Recherche Concertée).

Synopsis of the project

Europe is experiencing a profound democratic malaise as representative democracy is increasingly being challenged. The basic principles of the representative process are profoundly questioned. As such, the crisis of democracy is far from being a new phenomenon and many studies have addressed this issues over the last 40 years (see Runciman 2013; Crozier et al. 1975). But there is converging evidence of a structural public disaffection with political elites, representation and parties (Dalton 2004; Pitseys 2014). Turnout decreases, especially among the younger generations who seem to turn their back on conventional political participation and politics. Citizens feel less well represented and the economic crisis has further undermined public confidence in representative institutions (Armingeon and Guthmann 2014): almost two citizens out of three do not trust their national government and parliament(respectively 59 and 58%) while 50% of them feel that their voice does not count in the EU (Eurobarometer 88, December 2017). People seem increasingly dissatisfied with democracy, politics and government in general (Copsey 2015; Hobolt 2012). It is therefore not surprising to witness the rise of populist and anti-establishment parties and movements in Europe (and elsewhere). These parties reflect the growing discontent of segments of the population towards traditional parties (Albertazzi and McDonnell 2007; Mair 2009) but also coin elites against the people, claiming that politicians have lost touch with voters (Mudde 2004, 2014). But is this populist claim accurate? Is it true that political elite has drifted away from the people or are politicians able to assess what the public want?

This project aims at addressing these broad questions by looking at one key aspect of political representation: the linkage between voters and elected representatives. More particularly, it will concentrate on the issue of congruence, i.e. the correspondence between elites’ and citizens’ preferences (Walgrave and Lefevere 2013). It is structured around two research questions:

1) to what extent are elected representatives able to accurately perceive public opinion


2) why some are more able to have correct perceptions of public opinion?

To examine those questions, will rely on an original comparative approach, combining a horizontal comparison between five countries on the one hand and a vertical comparison between the national and European levels on the other hand. It will allow examining empirically the claim of a gap between citizens and elites but more importantly, it ambitions at developing a robust theoretical framework as to why some elected representatives are better able to perceive the wishes of the people they represent.

Job description

This is a call for applications for one full-time doctoral position (PhD grant) for 3 years.

The PhD researcher will become an active member of the research project “Mind the Gap? Examining political congruence in a comparative perspective” and of the CEVIPOL (ULB). It offers a stimulating working environment in a dynamic and international research team. The selected PhD researcher will also be closely associated to the activities of two related projects: PolPop (with the University of Antwerp) and RePresent.



The monthly net income will be around 1800 euros. Additional social benefits (public transport, hospitalization coverage, sporting facilities, day care) are provided by the University.

The Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) is an equal opportunity employer.

Eligibility criteria


Questions regarding the PhD scholarship can be addressed to Professor Nathalie Brack (nbrack@ulb.ac.be)

APPLICATIONS should include (in one single PDF document):

- a copy of the passport/ID

- a letter of motivation explaining the candidate’s general interest for the project

- a full CV (including grades obtained for each study year, the title of your MAthesis,

and, when applicable, a list of publications, courses taken, and

conference presentations)

- a short statement presenting how the candidate would tackle the research

question in his/her PhD (including the cases to be compared)

- Name, affiliation, email and phone number of two referees who can be

contacted if necessary

Selection process

The deadline for applications is November 23 2018.

A skype or face-to-face interview may be organized at the beginning of December.

Please send the above documents electronically to Professor Nathalie Brack (nbrack@ulb.ac.be)

Additional comments

The researcher will be based at the Cevipol (ULB). He/she will have an office and relevant administrative support at ULB. She/he will have no teaching obligations but will be allowed to engage in a limited amount of teaching if this is judged appropriate for his/her academic development. He/she will be expected to contribute to collective work on the project, and to present and publish individual or collective research outputs.


Within the project, the selected PhD candidate will perform the following tasks:

- conduct a PhD project on congruence between citizens and elites in a comparative perspective

- contribute to the data collection of the projects (through citizens’ surveys as well as elites interviews)

- help with the organization of workshop and/or events related to the project

- Manage the databases

Web site for additional job details

Offer Requirements

    Political sciences: Master Degree or equivalent
    FRENCH: Good
    ENGLISH: Good


- Holder of a Master degree in political science or related disciplines

- Excellent grades and other signs of academic distinctions

- Research interest and/or expertise in European Politics, democracy, political

representation, political parties


Specific Requirements

- Good command of quantitative and survey methods for social and political sciences

- Good command of dataset management and statistical software

- Good organizational and time management skills

- Ability to work in a team

- A good command of English, and French (or willingness to improve one’s command of the other language during the scholarship)

Work location(s)
1 position(s) available at
The Department of Political Science / CEVIPOL
Avenue Jeanne 44

EURAXESS offer ID: 348672


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