Ann-Kristin Kölln
397 early-career researchers won European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants 2021. One of the successful applicants is Ann-Kristin Kölln.
Photo: Johan Wingborg

Prestigious ERC grant for research on political parties


Political Scientist Ann-Kristin Kölln receives an ERC Starting Grant of EUR 1.5 million to investigate how conflict within European parties can have positive effects on parties’ electoral result.

The ERC Starting Grant is awarded by the European Research Council (ERC), which is the most prestigious funder of excellent research in Europe. The goal is to support the best researchers and the most brilliant ideas. The research grant of EUR 1.5 million runs over five years and aims at researchers who are at the beginning of their careers.

Ann-Kristin Kölln is Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and has devoted a large part of her research to political parties and public opinion in Europe. She is the first female researcher at the University of Gothenburg’s Faculty of Social Sciences to be awarded an ERC grant since its start in 2008 and the fourth researcher in total. She will use the grant to run the research project The Benefits of Conflict: How Factions Can Enhance Political Parties’ Electoral Performance, short INTRAPARTY.

"It is a great honour that my project received funding, but it also come with a lot of responsibility. The ERC is internationally renowned, and they expect the research results to be of very high quality. Thanks to the grant, I now have the best conditions for developing and implementing my research ideas."

In the INTRAPARTY project, Ann-Kristin and her research group will study factions, something that exists within virtually all political parties in Europe. These are groupings within a party that differ ideologically from the rest of the party. A general conception, which is not yet scientifically proven, is that factions create conflict within parties, which can have a negative impact on how people vote. But it does not have to be that way.

"My theory is on the contrary that factions can be useful for parties under certain circumstances. By, for example, pursuing their own political issues that go against the party line, they can create a bond with certain groups in society that did not exist before."

Research on factions within political parties is virtually non-existent in political science. Ann-Kristin Kölln’s project will contribute with a deeper knowledge of what a party’s “inner life” looks like, which is important to be able to understand how representative democracy really works.

"It is hardly possible to have democracy without parties. The starting point for my research is that there are factions within virtually all political parties in Europe, and that the conflicts they cause may partly explain why parties regularly change their positions. It may even be the case that factions are ultimately behind parties’ adaptability and survival."

More information

Method, the INTRAPARTY project

Methods from research on parties, interest groups and computational social sciences will be combined to provide a framework that integrates theory-testing and exploratory methods. The project develops a new methodological approach that identifies factions within political parties. Factions within parties in the 27 EU countries and the United Kingdom will first be identified, before testing how these affect parties, their election results, and the citizens’ voting behaviour.

INTRAPARTY will use observational data from across Europe, archival data and experimental data from the Netherlands, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

More about ERC Starting Grant (ERC-StG)

Individual grants for young promising researchers, 2-7 years after the doctoral degree, with pioneering research ideas and a strong potential to become one of the research leaders of the future. An ERC-StG has a maximum amount of EUR 1.5 million for up to five years and requires the recipients to conduct their research at a host institution within the EU or in one of the associated countries.

397 early-career researchers won European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants 2021. This call for proposals attracted over 4,000 proposals, which were reviewed by panels of renowned researchers from around the world.

Link to the ERC's press release