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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Kerry Tannahill, Political Science

Democracy's Challenges: A Comprehensive Analysis of Political Support in Quebec and Canada

Date & time
Wednesday, April 3, 2024
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Nadeem Butt


Henry F. Hall Building
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Room 1225.12

Wheel chair accessible


When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


While democratic support has been studied for decades, focusing on major cross-national trends and generalizations in public opinion has produced rather elusive conclusions on the overall state of democracy or its most pressing challenges or shortcomings. This is due, in part, to the lack of in-depth data that would allow us to parse out the complexities of citizens’ opinions about their democracies. This project begins to fill this gap, through the collection of large sample surveys conducted in Quebec in 2012 and 2014 and across Canada in 2017, under the Political Communities Survey Project (PCSP), while also drawing comparative baseline data from other large-scale national and international data sources. The purpose of the analyses in this project is to use these Canadian data as a starting point to map out political support both systemically (across the political system) and systematically (through the analysis of multiple indicators, testing several competing theoretical explanations for variations in support and their implications). The primary contribution of this project is the presentation of a more finely tuned, granular approach to the holistic understanding of perceptions of the democratic political system, one that may be drawn upon in the future by researchers interested in political support as well as by those seeking to address democratic deficits that may exist. The approach presented in this project should, over the long term, produce the kinds of conclusions necessary to generate more targeted, adaptive solutions. For instance, these analyses illustrate that the ways in which citizens perceive those in power to be performing are key in understanding waning support, that public cynicism runs deep, and that superficial performance improvements may not be enough to remedy more deep-seated negative perceptions. The analyses also reveal that complex identity patterns further complicate the support problem. In other words, any efforts aimed at addressing political support will require more targeted and sophisticated response strategies, informed by studies that pay careful attention to the entire political system (on a variety of aspects, using different assessment types) as well as to perspectives that are not generalizable (from different groups, across various sub-contexts).

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