Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Politics and governance

The Economic and Social Research Council supports the creation of new insights from research and datasets around elections and governance in the UK and across the world to give the public the data, evidence and analysis they need to build trust and confidence in governments and democracy.

Partners involved:
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The scope and what we're doing

We fund research and data collections to give insights and evidence into politics, elections and governance, both in the UK and overseas.

Our researchers and data collections help the public and politicians to understand important topics including EU Exit, the climate emergency and global security, and provide valuable insight into public opinion on political issues and matters of governance.

Below are a few examples of our work.

Studying elections across the UK’s nations and regions

Elections sit at the very heart of our political system in the UK – they are how we pick the politicians who will form our governments and implement public policies, from health and education through to justice and defence. ESRC funds research into and data collections from elections to help the public understand trends that emerge through voting and have confidence in the results of polls.

The investments we support include:

Once parliamentary elections are held, governments can be formed, and our researchers can drill down into government policy to assess its impact, again helping to keep voters informed. Our researchers generate the evidence needed to influence government policy in areas including childcare, health and waste recycling. They create resources to improve policy decision-making on issues such as local economic growth.

Analysing the UK’s place in the world

ESRC’s efforts extend beyond our own shores, so that UK voters and policymakers can understand their place in the world and how the UK’s public policies mirror and differ from those in other countries. At the heart of our work are our flagship projects, UK in a Changing Europe and Governance after Brexit. Understanding the effects that EU Exit has had on UK politics and voters is key to assessing the next steps that the UK should take, both domestically and on the world stage.

Our work extends beyond EU Exit, with researchers examining how important factors such as democracy and governance come into play around the globe. This includes the work of the Centre for Public Authority and International Development on marginalised and conflict-hit regions. Research we funded has also helped the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office through the Safeguarding elections and strengthening accountability in new democracies project.

Our large Trust and Global Governance grants enable academics to examine the role trust plays on the global stage, including through national and international governance, and in unstable democracies. Understanding the relationship between trust and governance and identifying the ways in which it is enhanced or eroded will help policymakers and the public to tackle the biggest threats facing the world, including the climate emergency.

Our researchers are also studying the future of the UK, including through our investment Between two unions: the constitutional future of the Islands after Brexit.

Working in partnership to inform the public and politicians

Our partners are at the centre of our work, whether they are academics in universities or members of the wider research community including in government departments. We work with our fellow UK research councils through activities such as the Partnership on Conflict, Crime and Security Research and with politicians from across the political spectrum through our support of the UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Science and Policy.

Working in partnership also means bringing together other parts of society to share their experience and expertise. For example, our Urban Big Data Centre and Consumer Data Research Centre bring together businesses and local government bodies to share data with researchers, which in turn keeps the public and politicians better informed when making decisions. And our investment in Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) brings together public sector data across the UK to ensure policies and decisions can draw on the best evidence available.

Why we're doing it

Politics and governance affects every aspect of our daily lives, from the morals, values, and shared beliefs that give our society cohesion through to the trust we place in our democracy to protect us from threats, both at home and overseas.

That’s why ESRC funds research into politics and governance, giving members of the public the data, evidence and analysis that they need to build trust and confidence in our governments and our democracy, and to hold institutions and individuals to account.

Who to contact

Last updated: 27 July 2023

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