We research political networks in action

We aim to understand how policy networks, international relations, legislative networks, political discussion networks, and other networks with a political dimension work.

Social networks often cross over into the political world. Individuals hold political ideologies and opinions and share them online and offline, leading to discussion networks that can cause political polarisation and echo chambers. Digital trace data enable social scientists to study political behaviour and interactions at unprecedented scales, and network analysis is one of the primary methodological vehicles through which these processes are analysed.

Not only individuals, but also elites and political organisations, such as parties, legislators, government agencies, interest groups, charities, and peak associations, engage in political networks. They exchange information, collaborate, display ideological preferences and try to influence other political actors' preferences and beliefs in the policy process through networks. Political actors are organised in structures like policy networks, advocacy coalitions, and lobbying coalitions. Policy debates and political discourse are routinely analysed using network science methods.

Networks extend to the study of political institutions and their interactions, such as the relations between parliaments, governments, international governmental organisations (IGOs), and the way in which political rules shape the network topology of vetoes, committee structures, and co-sponsorship of bills. Local political actors are members of regional and national governance networks and institutions, both formal and informal, shaping complex ecologies of games.

International relations, a subfield of political science, studies conflict, alliances, treaties, and other relationships and behaviours between states in the international system as networks with positive and negative ties, often leading to structural balance and blocs.

Analysing political processes and institutions using network analysis helps understanding how policies and new legislation come about, why peace breaks down or endures, and why and how political polarisation and echo chambers occur.

This working group comprises any applied or methodological work on networks involving a political dimension.

Chair of Research Area

Our research outputs

Our publications

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Contact us
Chair of Research Area Professor Phillip Leifeld
Department of Government, University of Essex
Telephone: 01206 874051
Departmental Director of Research Dr Han Dorussen
Department of Government, University of Essex