Skip to main content

Research highlights

Research highlights

The research undertaken by members of the Centre for Democratic Engagement examines different forms of democratic engagement, participation and activism at local, national and global levels. Researchers at the Centre study and comment on current democratic challenges such as growing political polarisation, incivility, populism and disinformation, but we are also interested in potential opportunities and solutions, including new forms of citizen engagement, democratic reform of political parties, and innovative tools for online citizen engagement. In so doing, we seek to analyse and interpret the complex and contradictory developments that currently shape the terrain of democratic politics, in what for many is a turbulent and confusing political moment.


A selection of some of our current funded projects:

Petitioning and People Power in Twentieth-Century Britain

"Petitioning and People Power in Twentieth-Century Britain",  AHRC, 2020-2023.

This project aims to explore how petitioning developed throughout the twentieth century, exploring the relationship between direct, participatory and representative democracy.

CDE Co-Director Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira is Co-Investigator on this project led by PI Professor Richard Huzzey (History, Durham University).

A Global Comparative Ethnography of Parliaments, Politicians and People

"A Global Comparative Ethnography of Parliaments, Politicians and People: representation, relationships and ruptures", European Research Council, 2019-24.

This project will develop an ethnography of five parliaments (Brazil, Fiji, India, UK and US), with a focus on communication between institution and Members, and public(s).

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira is Co-Investigator on this project led by PI Professor Emma Crewe (Anthropology, SOAS).

"Inclusivity and Engagement: children and the democratic process"

"Inclusivity and Engagement: children and the democratic process", ESRC WRDTP Collaborative PhD with the UK Parliament, 2020-24.

This interdisciplinary project, between politics and education, explores whether institutional political engagement programmes aimed at young people promote inclusivity in the way children are introduced to democratic rights and processes.

Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira is Supervisor, together with Dr Paula Clarke (Education, University of Leeds).

Prime Ministerial Leadership in Japan and the UK

"Prime Ministerial Leadership in Japan and the UK: Source of Power and Influence", ESRC.

This project aims to address questions surrounding Prime Ministerial leadership in two leading parliamentary systems, the UK and Japan, that have often been overlooked in the comparative literature. It aims to explore the changing nature and role of UK and Japanese Prime Ministers since the turn of the millennium as each country has faced the challenges of the global financial crisis, domestic political and economic problems, and rising traditional and non-traditional security threats. 

Dr Timothy Heppell is involved in the project to provide expertise on the UK Prime Minister. The main publication output from this project will be a special issue of Asian Journal of Comparative Politics, in which Dr Heppell will contribute two papers.

Understanding normative change to address the climate emergency

"Understanding normative change to address the climate emergency", UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, 2021-25.

This research focuses on social climate mitigation solutions and specifically on how we can accelerate social change in response to the climate crisis, harnessing the power of norms. It looks at norm entrepreneurs such as Fridays for Future that have triggered a normative change, which has the potential to change policies and behaviours.

Dr Viktoria Spaiser is the holder of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship and Dr Nicole Nisbett is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on this project.


Redefining Environmental Activism in Indonesia through Progressive Rock 

  This blog by Eva Wishanti explores themes of political expression in Indonesia through an emerging unconventional art form, progressive rock. This acts as a...

The fight for the souls of Labour and the Conservatives

    Blair’s jettisoning of the Labour Party’s Clause IV in 1995 marked his commitment to constructing an updated, left of centre, political consensus. His...

Social Media and the Subscription Subject

Paul Geyer There is a burgeoning element of social media: subscription services. One might assume that Elon Musk’s announcement of “Twitter Blue” was the spark...

View all Posts


Jonathan Dean | An Appreciation

Jonathan was dear to his colleagues in the School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at the University of Leeds, where he worked from 2010....

Pivotal moment as global warming threatens the Earth system

Climate change is pushing the world towards a series of “tipping points” which will see rapid and irreversible change across the natural and social worlds, say a group of leading experts.

Dr Viktoria Spaiser and Susan Ann Samuel are members of the University's COP28 delegation team

Dr Viktoria Spaiser and her PhD student Susan Ann Samuel are both attending this year's COP28 as part of the University of Leeds COP28 delegation....

View all News


Research seminar | Jeremiah O. Arowosegbe

Jeremiah O. Arowosegbe, a new addition to the CDP, will present his research as part of the CDP's ongoing seminar...

Legislative Institutionalisation and Openness in Presidential Systems: the Case of Mexico

Dr Khemvirg Puente Martínez will give a talk about his paper titled 'Legislative Institutionalisation and Openness in Presidential Systems: the Case of Mexico.'

Book talk | Lord Norton

Lord Norton, a leading expert on Parliament and constitutional affairs, will hold a talk about his new book titled "The 1922 Committee: Power Behind the Scenes."

View all Events