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CriEc&Demo is a three-year research program that is looking at key issues raised by recent change processes involving European countries with regard to economic crises. These crises were at first only financial in nature but later were transformed into real crises involving national debt. 

CriEc&Demo works in two ways:

  • by taking part in political and social projects within the international scientific community, so that Italy can acquire a leading role in the empirical analysis of advanced democracies; 
  • by generating knowledge within the area of applied social sciences. 

This duality – a theoretical and methodological bent paired with an evidence-based approach to the formulation of public policies – will characterize the whole program. 

Expected results

We expect to consolidate and disseminate a comprehensive analytical tool that can be used to empirically assess the democratic quality of a country and to ascertain what factors facilitate or hamper eight aspects of democratic quality. We examine these aspects, relying upon the vast amount of scholarship and empirical research shared at the international level as constitutive components of a democracy.

This tool is made up of a codebook with a list of key questions used to gather data for each of the eight aspects:

  • rule of law
  • interinstitutional accountability
  • electoral accountability
  • competition
  • participation
  • responsiveness
  • freedom
  • equality/solidarity

This tool also includes solid methodology to integrate the quantitative data analysis with qualitative data. Finally the tool provides guidelines for the coding of data. 

The production of sound scientific knowledge will contribute to scientific progress in terms of research. This knowledge is also going to provide institutions and policy makers with solid empirical evidence to improve the effectiveness of their decisions. Specifically, we want to empirically test the hypotheses listed in section 12, in order to assess the extent to which economic crises affect democratic quality.

We also want to cast light on the mechanisms that trigger these changes where they occur. The knowledge we produce will be made available to the international scientific community as well as policy makers, particularly those within the European Union, which is the area we are focusing on. Our hope is to make an important contribution towards the goals set out by Horizon 2020. We want to make CriEc&Demo a source for the type of knowledge that is needed in order to identify institutional conditions that facilitate the creation or maintenance of sociopolitical inclusiveness and security.

We want to address these issues without endorsing a normative vision of what constitutes a good democracy, starting instead from an empirical analysis that resists the changes through which history continuously challenges our institutions. Furthermore, our methodology uses qualitative analysis to enhance its quantitative analysis, reinvigorating the current scholarship on this topic and delivering a product that will have a lasting effect, even after the end of CriEc&DEmo. This will be done through the creation of an Observatory on democratic quality, working in partnership with the international scientific community. Within this strong Italian team, several junior researchers will be working to promote a new research stream and a new methodology.

This team will reach a level of scientific excellence through a synergic collaboration with a vast network of contacts.