POLSTYLE project. New trends or old habits? Stability and changes of political styles in European democracies since 1960.

ERC starting grant (101078226) 

Hardly a week goes by without reports of elected officials – often pictured as ‘populists’ – having used vitriolic language and attacked the personal traits of their opponents. In a context of ‘restyling of politics’, the style of political actors is presented as increasingly emotive, personalized, and confrontational. In the absence of systematic comparative study, such claims remain however trivial intuitions and anecdotes that are as old as politics. This raises critical questions: are modern political styles new trends or old habits? What are the institutional and political factors that constrain or favour the rise of certain styles?

The POLSTYLE project provides a groundbreaking empirical and theoretical contribution by analysing the evolutions of political styles in four European democracies since 1960 (BE, DE, ES and the UK). It posits that configurational evolutions shape the stability and changes of political styles over time: it depends upon the varying responses of the types of actors, arenas and political systems vis-à-vis abrupt exogenous shocks and endogenous incremental changes. For these empirical and theoretical goals, the project builds a unique dataset of actors’ political styles performing in various arenas (TV, print press, parliaments, and Twitter). Different indicators will trace evolutions of political styles in terms of contents, nature of interactions and forms of expressions. Finally, the project develops a theory that explains how and why patterns of styles unfold according to configurational evolutions. Overall, the POLSTYLE project decisively contributes to ongoing theoretical debates about the nature of political representation in modern democracies, and how democratic linkages with voters are built on a daily basis. While some scholars and political observers suggest that current political styles entail nothing less than the inexorable decline of democracy; other scholars have praised them as virtues for the functioning of our democracies.