About the Bettering Democracy Project
Much of the sporadic research conducted over the last 50 years suggests that democratic political systems may not be working as well as they might, particularly from the perspective of their citizenries. A key obstacle however, has been that the findings presented to date have been quite mixed and difficult to interpret.
Broad-sweeping but relatively shallow cross-national studies have left us with an inconsistent and underdeveloped understanding of the nature of the major problems involved, the reasons behind their existence and the potential consequences that might accrue should they be left untreated. What is clear is that complacency could further aggravate the circumstances and possibly lead to even more dire consequences.
Learning more about how Canadians truly feel about the workings of their democracy, the primary causes and their potential consequences will not be easy. It will require a multi-sectoral, deeply detailed and intensely systematic investigation along with new data that will need to be collected.
As part of this research project, Dr. Kanji, Associate Professor at Concordia University, and his team plan to conduct an in depth investigation of Canadians’ perspectives toward a variety of political objects, including authorities, institutions, various democratic procedures, regime principles and different political communities, across various levels of governments, territories and social groups in order to look carefully and systematically at the nature of our citizens’ major gripes toward their political system, their causes and their potential implications. A core end goal of this research will be to derive relevant solutions and a viable implementation strategy for improving our democratic process and citizens' outlooks toward it.
This project creates an opportunity for electoral agencies from across Canada to come together with academics, student researchers, and community players, over a variety of elections during the next three years, to study issues that both election officials and other practitioners deem relevant to the electoral process and to the overall public good. A few examples of topics that we plan to investigate include:
voting behavior at all three levels of government across time;
public support for a variety of political objects including authorities, institutions, the workings of democracy, regime principles and communities;
the potential consequences of citizens’ political discontent, including the implications for voting and political reform;
the implications of diversity and identity politics on politics and voting;
the workings of politics and voting behavior within social groups.