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Elisa Volpi wins the 2020 Jean Blondel PhD Prize

Elisa Volpi, ECPR Jean Blondel PhD Prize 2020 WinnerWe are delighted to congratulate Elisa Volpi, University of Geneva, on winning this year's Jean Blondel PhD Prize for her doctoral thesis The Politics of Turning Coat: A Comparative and Historical Analysis of Party Switching.

This annual prize, introduced in 2003, celebrates the best thesis in politics, broadly conceived to include International Relations, Political Theory and Public Administration.

Elisa's thesis was nominated by Dorothee Bohle of European University Institute, and unanimously chosen by our July members as the prizewinner. In her nomination, Dorothee remarks that "the thesis opens a relatively novel and possibly momentous area of party research".

In light of the exceptional circumstances, we presented the award to Elisa virtually, and created a short video to celebrate this very special moment along with our Jury Chair, Petra Meier and Elisa's thesis supervisor, Stefano Bartolini.

About Elisa

Elisa Volpi is post-doctoral researcher at the University of Geneva where she works for the SNF Research Project  ‘Inequality in the Mind’, led by Nathalie Giger, studying the perception of economic inequality by political elites.

Elisa completed her PhD in Political Science at the European University Institute of Florence, defending a thesis about the determinants of legislative party switching. Her research interests include elites’ behaviour, the evolution of political parties and intra-party politics in comparative perspective. Her recent publications include articles in Party Politics and Parliamentary Affairs. Her work has also been featured in the Italian daily newspaper Il Foglio and online in

About Elisa's thesis

In her thesis, Elisa investigates legislative party switching, MPs changing party affiliation during the course of a parliamentary term or 'turning coat' as she also calls it.

Her study covers a sample of 14 Western European countries for which she collected an unique data set of all inter-party defections occurring over a time span of 70 years, from 1945-2015. With the help of this data set she investigates the scope of the phenomenon and explores the determinants of legislative party switching, analysing how legislative party switching is influenced by cost considerations. She opts to study cost – as opposed to gain – considerations of legislative party switching arguing that defection costs can be more easily assessed than eventual benefits.

To date, relatively little research has been conducted on this topic, most of it not being comparative and/or theoretically embedded. Elisa finds that the overall level of party switching is to a large extent determined by party characteristics, especially ideological placement. Another factor playing a role is a low level of party system institutionalisation. Institutional factors seem to have little impact, electoral systems and parliamentary forms of government do play a role when it comes to collective forms of legislative party switching. She argues that individual and collective legislative party switching are not only theoretically different, but thus are also affected by different sets of factors.

Our Jury's verdict

The jury appreciates the innovative character of Elisa's doctoral thesis, both empirically and theoretically...

The research design is clearly explained, and the methodology is convincingly justified. The discussion indicates a strong grasp of the epistemological and methodological aspects. The jury values the excellent structure of the manuscript, and the level of development of the arguments. The jury strongly appreciates the impressive compilation of the unique data set allowing for this research. It also values the clear and precise writing, its fluidity, and the fact that the manuscript is a pleasant read. The narrative is clear and communicates the ideas and the findings in such a way that it is accessible to a wide audience.'  

In her own words

'I am extremely delighted and honoured! I could not think of a better recognition for the research I carried out during my doctoral studies. But this achievement is not only mine. I am incredibly grateful to every person who helped me along the way, and in particular to my supervisor, Stefano Bartolini.

Twitter @eli_volpi

2020 Jean Blondel Prize Jury members

Petra Meier University of Antwerp (Chair)
Mary Farrell Plymouth Universtiy
Thomas Zittel Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Daniele Caramani University of Zurich