Elin Naurin, Professor
Elin is Professor of political science. In 2017 she was appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellow to create the Gothenburg Research Program on Pregnancy and Politics. She is the author of several books - one of them "Election Promises, Party Behaviour and Voter Perceptions" received the Swedish Political Science Association prize for best book on Swedish politics 2011-2015.
Can you describe your research?
‘My main research interests are representative democracy and people’s political behaviour. I study for example what political parties promise in their election manifestos before an election and whether they live up to their promises afterwards. I have concluded that, in contrast to what most people think, the parties that win the elections and end up forming a government usually do live up to their pre-election promises, which is a very interesting paradox.
I also study politicians’ sensitivity to voters. For example, what happens when a voter contacts a politician and expresses a wish for a change in policy – do they listen?
Another central area of research concerns how individuals change politically by becoming pregnant and having children. In the field of political science, which is the discipline that should help us understand how and why people change their political opinions, pregnancy and childbirth have never been considered processes of political significance, even though they are among the most important events in a person's life, and despite the fact that pregnancy and early parenthood have many political implications.’
What makes your research interesting?
‘Election campaign promises create expectations in people and give them a clear framework for demanding accountability. They stir up emotions, and anything that stirs up emotions is fun to study. They are also highly relevant for most actors in a representative democracy and are therefore tools that I as a researcher can use to explore the relationships between voters, individual politicians, parties and media. I will probably stay in the field of election promises for quite a while.
In the case of pregnancy as a political process, a pregnancy is a life event that we can expect to affect a person’s political views and participation as well as her faith in and concern about society and other things. Pregnant woman and their partners get to experience new types of healthcare (prenatal care, maternity care and child health services), they become eligible for new forms of fiscal measures (pregnancy benefit, parental insurance, child allowance and the housing allowance supplement) and they become able to more clearly see the consequences of how the school system and public services such as childcare work. It is also likely that a pregnancy increases the importance of the home sphere (in contrast to society) – at least for a period and for some individuals. Life revolves around the relationship with the child, and the woman and her partner have reason to give more attention to their own and their child’s home situation. These are political processes that political scientists need to be knowledgeable about.’
What do you teach?
‘I’m in charge of a course titled Citizens, Politicians and the Media: Evaluating Democratic Processes. It’s a Master’s level course in political science that is offered in cooperation with the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication. It is based on research on voter behaviour, political psychology, mass media and political campaigns. We focus on three actor groups: voters, politicians and media. What does research say about how these groups act, think and influence each other? It’s a fun course to teach since it is so closely related to my own research.
I have also taught Swedish and comparative politics a great deal, often with a focus on the Swedish Instrument of Government and Swedish constitutional history. Together with Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson, I created the Constitutional Convention roleplay, where political science students write about the Swedish constitution.’
Why did you get into political science?
‘I have always been interested in society and what goes on there, and I love the research-oriented approach to life. I took the introductory course in political science and had a fabulous time. Most of all I liked the part about the constitution... When I took the methods courses, I realised I can find out all the stuff I keep thinking about by myself, and once I got to that point it was an easy choice.’
When is your job the most enjoyable?
‘Maybe when I or my students get things. As for me, it may be when I interview respondents, analyse data, read good previous research or talk to smart people. It’s very stimulating to have a job where the point is to learn more. But it is of course also important to feel that one’s research and teaching efforts are relevant – that the stuff I do can be used to produce even better research or to make society a bit easier to understand or even a bit better.’
If you hadn’t become a political scientist, what would you be doing today?
‘When I was a kid, I wanted to become the boss of Borås Zoo. If I were to switch to something completely different today, I find the medical profession interesting. Physics is also an exciting field. But, honestly, I’m very happy with my choice. Political science is a perfect place for me.’
Wallenberg Academy Fellows is a long-term programme that addresses young researchers. The research is funded by Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.