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ERC plays up role in bolstering democracy through research

Image: Alexandru Nika, via Shutterstock

Studies into democracy have received €368 million from the European Research Council since 2014

The European Research Council has published a report emphasising the importance of its funding to democracy, in a historic year for global elections.

In 2024, 64 countries and the EU are hosting elections, collectively representing about 49 per cent of the world’s population, the ERC said on 1 March.

The council said it had supported more than 200 research projects on democracy with €368 million from the EU’s 2014-20 and 2021-27 research and innovation funding programmes.

ERC president Maria Leptin said these projects showed the vital role of “frontier research in shaping our understanding of the world—in this case regarding democracy and the complexities of governance in the 21st century”.

She continued: “They couldn’t be more relevant in this significant election year and amidst the challenges that democracies worldwide are facing.” 

Citizen engagement and authoritarianism

The projects ranged across six topics: democratic governance; elections and voting; citizen engagement; human rights and the rule of law; disinformation and social media; and polarisation, populism and authoritarianism.

One project led by Stephan Lauermann at the University of Bonn in Germany investigated whether biased entities can influence voting behaviour by releasing information on issues that citizens care about.

Another project, led by Eeva Luhtakallio at Tampere University in Finland, investigated the participation of young European citizens in democracy through visual media.

The ERC said: “Not only do these projects contribute scientific knowledge to the evidence base that policies can, and should, be based on, many of them also provide innovative and concrete tools to address some of the challenges that democracy faces today.”

The funder is hosting a talk on strengthening democracy on 5 March, in partnership with the Nobel Prize and featuring several Nobel laureates.