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Projects (Elections and Democracy)

Local referendums

Schedule: January 2017-september 2017
Employer: Kommunal- og moderniseringsdepartementet

Project Background

217 local referendums have been held in Norwegian municipalities, in order to explore public opinion on municipal amalgamation. This has led to a discussion of referendums as a democratic tool.

Questions have been raised about the practical implementation of such referendums, and whether there is a need for national guidelines.

Project Approach

The project maps and discusses various aspects of local referendums on municipal amalgamation, and the role of  referendums in municipal decision-making more generally.


The project includs seven sub-projects, in which different types of data and methods are used:

1. A research-based overview of the use of local referendums

2. Analysis of existing data on the referendums that have been held

3. Carrying out and analysing an online survey to the municipalities that have held referendums

4. Analysis of qualitative interviews from a project on the Municipal Reform

5. Analysis and discussion of the electoral system (methods of alternative voting)

6. Analysis of survey data from the Norwegian Citizen Panel

7. A discussion of issues concerning the legitimacy of referendums

The project will collaborate closely with – and utilize data from – the project Reshaping the Map of Local and Regional Self-Government. A study of the Norwegian Local Government Reform (NLGR) processes 2014-2019.

Researchers: Jo Saglie, Signe Bock Segaard, Tor Bjørklund, Jan Erling Klausen, Morten Werring, Bjarte Folkestad

The Limits of Sámi Politics: Inside and Outside of the Sámi Polity

Schedule: January 2017-june 2019
Employer: Norges forskningsråd

Project Description

The project explores different degrees of attachment to the Sámi polity in Norway and Sweden: Who are inside and outside of the Sámi polity? To what extent are boundaries drawn between those who are included in the Sámi polity, and those who are not?

Main Theme 1

One main theme is people who have an attachment to the Sámi community, but have not enrolled on the Sámi Parliament's electoral roll, or do not meet the criteria to do so. When the Sámi Parliaments were established, it was necessary to make a distinction between those who had the right to register as voters and participate in Sámi politics, and those who had not. We will carry out qualitative interviews and study media content, in order to explore attitudes towards this issue in the Sámi public debate, among the non-enrolled Sámi themselves, and among political actors.

Main Theme 2

Another main theme is the varying degree of Sámi attachment among those who have enrolled on the Sámi electoral roll. This is done by means of quantitative voter surveys. We ask to what extent the increasing urbanization leads to a weaker attachment to the Sámi polity, and to conflicts between the urban Sámi and the Sámi in the traditional settlement areas.

Main Theme 3

A third theme is the distinction between Sámi and non-Sámi in policy-making, which is increasingly based on statistics. Using qualitative interviews and document studies, we will study the use of Sámi statistics in policy-making, and how the boundaries between "inside" and "outside" are drawn in Sámi statistics.

Project Approach

We compare Norway and Sweden throughout the project. Although Norway and Sweden are similar in many ways, there are major differences in the Sámi policy of the two states, and in the legal basis and authority of the two Sámi Parliaments. The relationship between the Sámi voters and their respective Sámi Parliaments and nation-states also varies between the countries.

See also:

Researchers: Jo Saglie, Johannes Bergh, Torunn Pettersen, Mikkel Berg-Nordlie, Per Selle, Kristin Strømsnes, Stefan Dahlberg, Ulf Mörkenstam, Ragnhild Nilsson

The 2017 Sámi Parliament Election Study

Schedule: December 2016-december 2020
Employer: Sametinget

Main Part

A main part of the project is a representative voter survey with a sample drawn from the electoral roll of the Norwegian Sámi Parliament, carried out at the Sámi parliamentary elections in 2017. This is a follow-up of previous surveys from 2009 and 2013.

Key topics include:

1. Voter turnout and enrolment in the electoral roll

2. Voting and political cleavages

3. The political agenda – issues that are important for voting

4. Political trust

Work Package A

The project includes two in-depth studies. Work Package A studies how institutionalized and semi-institutionalized Sámi arenas are used to reach Sámi voters, and the use and importance of social media.

Work Package B

Work Package B studies the relationship between Sámi parties and electoral lists on the one hand, and other parts of Sámi civil society on the other. To what extent does a Sámi civil society exist, and how close is the relationship between Sámi civil society groups and electoral lists?

Researchers: Jo Saglie, Johannes Bergh, Torunn Pettersen, Eli Skogerbø, Mikkel Berg-Nordlie, Per Selle, Kristin Strømsnes

Growth, integration and coordination in executive government

Schedule: November 2016-July 2019
Employer: Forskningsrådet


Illustration: Colourbox.

Project Description

In the last decades, there has been a steep increase in the size of Norwegian ministries’ political staff and communication units. This project will study effects of these changes on horizontal and vertical coordination in the Norwegian government.

The project is a collaboration between a research group covering three academic institutions (ISF, UiO, HiOA) and the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi).

The project is partly comparative through studies on Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Main Project Goal

The project will consider concrete proposals to improve the coordination capability of the Norwegian government using three groups of measures: procedural changes; structural changes and formalization of informal norms and rules.

Research Questions

The project will address three main research questions:

  • How is the vertical and horizontal coordination in the government apparatus influenced by the increase in the size of the political staff and communication units?
  • Has the increase in the size of the political staff/leadership led to a stronger integration between politics and the civil service?
  • How does the increase in the size of the political leadership and the communication departments influence the relationship between the government and Parliament?

Further information:

Researchers: Rune Karlsen, Kristoffer Kolltveit, Jostein Askim

Disruptive Change and New Media Policies: A Field Approach

Schedule: December 2016-December 2019
Employer: Forskningsrådet

Project Objectives

The primary objective of the project is to provide in-depth knowledge about of i) the media policy field ii) the media industry field, and iii) individual news consumption.

The secondary objective is to analyze the implications of these changes for fulfilling media policy goals of an open and enlightened public discourse, and a corresponding enlightened understanding among the public. 

Project Approach

The project combines a longitudinal perspective on media consumption and media policy development, with contemporary institutional field studies focusing on the interplay between key actors.

This combined approach enables us to consider the effect of media policy in detail, as it has occurred both on the field level and the individual level, and to provide historically embedded knowledge that can shed light on contemporary challenges.

Field analyses of the Norwegian media industry taken in the broad sense, including new, emerging actors, such as digital intermediaries, as well as established key players will allow us to analyze the impact of digitalization in relation to external and internal diversity, as well as quality.

This is combined with the analysis of a unique and complex data set on individual news consumption that includes information on sources/platforms used as well as content, and how this has developed in different user groups over the past two decades, i.e. the development in exposure diversity at the individual level.

Finally we make use of a large, comparative data set that enables the study of the development of political knowledge within different national media systems over time to probe the link between source diversity in a given system and an enlightened, politically knowledgeable population.

Project Relevance

Ultimately, our design allows us both to provide most-needed empirical descriptions of current developments in media systems linked to digitalization and globalization, and to ask fundamental questions about the potential space for public media policies in an era of exponential increase in news offers, and in a situation where the policy field has been opened up to a range of new actors.

Further information:

Researchers: Rune Karlsen, Kari Steen-Johnsen, Bernard Enjolras, Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud, Vilde Sundet, Karoline Ihlebæk

Reshaping the Map of Local and Regional Self-Government. A study of the Norwegian Local Government Reform (NLGR) processes 2014-2019

Schedule: January 2016-december 2019
Employer: Forskningsrådet

"Reshaping the Map of Local and Regional Self-Government. A study of the Norwegian Local Government Reform processes 2014?2019" is a cooperative project involving a number of Norwegian and Nordic social scientists and research institutions.

The outcome of the Local Government Reform is still (as of the project start date of February 1st 2016) uncertain, but the reform is potentially the most extensive reform of the Norwegian political and administrative system in decades, attracting much public interest.

The Project Purpose

The purpose of our project is to describe and analyse the reform as it progresses from the point of initiation in 2014, until a second main phase of municipal amalgamations is scheduled to be implemented by the end of 2019. The research group will, in other words, monitor the reform process and collect data as the process unfolds.

The Local Government Reform could be characterised as one reform, but many reforms. It is one centrally led reform, rooted in the parliament’s and government’s decisions, and supported by a wide range of means and instruments – but also manifests itself in a variety of differentiated local and regional processes, where different actors discuss the conditions for amalgamations between municipalities (and between county municipalities). The research group aims to capture the reform as it unfolds at the various levels, and the dynamic between central and local processes.

Our data will consist of surveys, interviews and various documents. A number of local case studies will be carried out. With respect to methods, comparison will be an essential tool. The local processes in different parts of the country vary, and the differences call for explanation. The processes will also be analysed in light of experiences from other European countries, historical experiences from our own country, and other domestic cross-level reforms of the public sector.

More information about the project:

Researchers: Yngve Flo, Jo Saglie, Marte Winsvold, Bjarte Folkestad, Elisabeth Angell, Dag Arne Christensen, Gro Sandkjær Hanssen, Sigrid Stokstad, Jacob Aars, Anne-Lise Fimreite, Signy Irene Vabo, Jan Erling Klausen, Jostein Askim, Oddbjørn Bukve, Jens Blom-Hansen, Søren Serritzlev, Kurt Houlberg, Siv Sandberg

The Norwegian National Election Studies (NNES) of 2017 and 2021

Schedule: January 2016-december 2023
Employer: Norges forskningsråd


Photo: Colourbox.

Main Purpose

The Norwegian National Election Studies (NNES) is an ongoing research project, the main purposes of which are to analyze elections, election results, voter behavior, and voter attitudes over time.

The 2017 and 2021 NNES will provide both continuity and innovation to Norwegian electoral research.

1st Project Aim

We aim, first, to build on previous research and to provide continuity with respect to institutional affiliation, research design, data-collection methods, and analyses of voter behavior. The project will continue to be led by the Institute for Social Research, in close collaboration with the Department of Political Science at the University of Oslo, and with partners at both the University of Bergen and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (in Trondheim).

We will continue using a large-scale post-election survey as the main data source in the project.

The main publication will be a book in Norwegian that aims to combine high-quality research with accessible writing.

2nd Project Aim

An equally important aim of the 2017 and 2021 NNES is to renew the field of election studies in Norway and to enable innovation in research questions, methods, and designs. Starting with the 2017 election, we will introduce a campaign study as a regular part of the National Election Studies.

We also plan a renewal of the study of election turnout, using experimental methods and data from the electronic electoral roll that the Norwegian government is gradually implementing and making available to researchers.

In the upcoming 2017 election, we will conduct a study of rightwing populism and anti-immigrant mobilization.

Finally, it is important to note that politics in general, and particularly political elections, are unpredictable and prone to unexpected change. We need to be able to follow events as they happen, and to have resources available so that we can plan and execute new research efforts during the course of the project period.

Researchers: Johannes Bergh, Bernt Aardal, Rune Karlsen, Stine Hesstvedt, Anders Todal Jenssen, Toril Aalberg, Elisabeth Ivarsflaten, Dina Heider Hov

The Local Democracy Survey 2015-2017

Schedule: April 2016-june 2017
Employer: Kommunal- og moderniseringsdepartementet

Project Goal

The project goal is to contribute to knowledge about the local election in 2015 in particular, and the function and legitimacy of the local democracy in general.

Project approach

The theme of the survey is voters' behavior, local party systems, voter participation, the municipality as a political arena, output-democracy, parties as intermediaries in local politics, municipalities reform, elderly participation and representation in local politics and campaigning and media.

Researchers: Jo Saglie, Signe Bock Segaard, Marte Winsvold, Lawrence E. Rose, Johannes Bergh, Dag Arne Christensen, Bjarte Folkestad, Hilmar Langhelle Mjelde, Jan Erling Klausen, Jacob Aars, Sveinung Arnesen, Richard Matland, Tor Bjørklund

Women in local politics

Schedule: 2014-2016
Employer: Kommunal- og regionaldepartementet




Project Approach

The project presents and discusses main results from previous research on factors that influence political recruitment in general, and women’s representation in local politics in particular.

We distinguish between explanatory factors at three different levels. The macro level refers to the national context, including institutional and cultural factors. The meso level refers to political parties and municipalities, and the micro level consists of individual actors such as voters and political candidates.

Moreover, we distinguish between a supply side and a demand side. The supply side includes the potential political candidates, while the demand side comprises the voters as well as gatekeepers within political parties, who may prefer male or female candidates.

Institutional Change in Democratic Society

Schedule: 2012-2015
Employer: NFR

A joint project by Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Institute for Social Research, and Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research.

How are modern societies constituted? Dominant in sociological theory are either abstract “top down” perspectives, or arbitrary labels such as “risk society” or “post-modern society”. The present project chooses instead a bottom up approach in order to describe how large social formations are linked together. Thereby the focus on institutions becomes crucial. In order to avoid excessive generality, three limitations are made: (i) Mechanisms and patterns of institutional change are highlighted, (ii) a limited set of institutions are studied, (iii) democracy is regarded as constitutive in all parts of modern society. Empirically, the emphasis is put on societies of the Scandinavian type, but with clear comparative ambitions. Being societies where the state is simultaneously strong and liberal makes these societies a special case in relationship to basic assumptions in the international literature.

The project falls in three parts: Part A discusses normative theory of democracy, and theory of institutional change. Part B engages with changes in the public sphere. Part C concerns institutional change in working life and the welfare state, and what characterizes Scandinavia, in comparison with Continental Europe and the Anglo-American world.

The 2013 Sámi Election Study

Schedule: 2013-2016
Employer: The Sámi Parliament and the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation

The aim of the 2013 Sámi Election Study is to study political participation and representation in the Norwegian Sámi political system, in close cooperation with the comparative study of Norwegian and Swedish Sámi Parliament elections.

The project comprises two sub-projects: 1) a survey of voters registered in the Sami electoral roll, in connection with the 2013 Sami Parliament Elections; and 2) qualitative and quantitative studies of selected topics, especially a) the coverage of the election campaign in NRK Sápmi, b) the effect of urbanization on Sámi party programmes, and c) the effects of the new electoral system on the work of Sámi parties and lists.

Researchers: Jo Saglie, Eva Josefsen,, Johannes Bergh, Bernt Aardal, Torunn Pettersen, Áila Márge Varsi Balto, Eli Skogerbø

The Sámi Parliaments as Representative Bodies

Schedule: 2012-2016
Employer: Formas

The last two decades we have witnessed a growing global acknowledgement of indigenous rights, for instance manifested in
the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Nordic countries have all responded to Sámi right claims
by establishing popularly elected Sámi Parliaments to serve as representative bodies of the Sámi people. Research on the
parliaments´ position and function within the Sámi communities is, however, rare.

The aim of this project is to analyse and compare the Sámi Parliaments´ position and function within the Sámi communities in Sweden and Norway. The comparative approach will generate new knowledge on both the Sámi Parliaments´ position in respective country and on the impact of
different institutional arrangements on the political mediation and representation of Sámi interests. A contemporary perspective
is, however, not enough in order to understand the differences between the parliaments, a historical analysis of the Sámi
movements´ political mobilisation is decisive for our understanding of contemporary politics and the Sámi Parliaments´ position

The project thus consists of three parts: (i) to gather and make available information/statistics connected to earlier
elections to the Sámi Parliaments; (ii) to carry out an election study of the elections to the Sámi Parliaments in Sweden and
Norway in 2013; and (iii) to accomplish historical analyses of the political strategies of the Sámi movements in Sweden and

Researchers: Jo Saglie, Johannes Bergh, Torunn Pettersen, Áila Márge Varsi Balto, Eva Josefsen, Eli Skogerbø, Ulf Mörkenstam, Patrik Lantto, Stefan Dahlberg