Professor Jenny Lewis, Professor Andrew Turpin, Dr Erik Baekkeskov, Dr Andrea Carson and Dr Roberto Foa

This project aims to empirically test a novel framework for analysing the relationship between political debates and policy decisions. Using digital sources and computational modelling approaches, the project team plans to investigate three specific issues to test this framework. These issues, all drawn from different policy sectors, will be examined as a series of debates (involving actors, framing and forums) linked to specific decisions, over the last two decades. It aims to produce conclusions about how debates shape policy decisions for different issues, thus leading to recommendations for how the link between political debates and policy decisions can be improved in Australia and elsewhere, providing potential benefits for politics and policy-making.

This project will improve our understanding of how political debates become policy decisions, using digital sources and computational approaches. Its main benefit will be recommendations on how to improve the link from debate to policy decisions. It will also provide guidance on how political debates can be improved for specific policy issues. Finally, it will generate large datasets that will be made available for other researchers to use in studying how to improve the policy-making process.

Dr Andrea Carson, Professor Jenny Lewis and Dr Leah Ruppanner

Although women account for half of the Australian population, women’s political representation is low. Gender balance in political representation is an important goal of governments yet today in Australia only 32% of all parliamentary and 29% of the House of Representative seats are held by women (Parliament of Australia, 2017). While political scientists have investigated political attitudes of female politicians, less is known how internalized gender biases structure voters’ attitudes towards female politicians. This form of discrimination is damaging yet difficult to measure as individuals may be unaware of their internalised bias.

To redress this methodological challenge, this study will apply experimental methods of randomly assigning respondents to a vignette that manipulates the politician’s gender, we will address the research question: do Australians perceive female politicians as less competent and capable in their jobs and, if so, what are the mechanisms through which this discriminatory bias is exhibited? Ultimately, this experimental survey design will allow us to measure gendered bias in citizens' attitudes towards female politicians. This project is co-funded by the University of Melbourne Arts Faculty, The Policy Lab and the Melbourne School of Government (MSoG).

Other Grants

(with Prof. J Lewis et al.) Understanding political debate and policy decisions using big data (Discovery Projects) awarded by AUST RESEARCH COUNCIL 2018 – 2021, $340,000


(with Prof. J Lewis and Dr L. Ruppanner) (2018). Melbourne School of Government research grant, Race to the Top: Using Experiments to Understand Gender Bias Against Female Politicians, $10,000 over one year.


Carson A. (2017). The Future Newsroom, research funded by Facebook. $ undisclosed.


Carson A. (2017). University of Melbourne SSPS research Workshop grant. Political action in the digital age: collective, connective and campaigning logics, $8,000 over one year.


Carson A. (2016). University of Melbourne Arts Faculty Research Grant. The Panama Papers a new Frontier? An examination of big data, Investigative Journalism and Democracy in the Digital Age
 $ 9,767.71 over one year.


Carson A. (2014). University of Melbourne Teaching and Learning Grant. From theory to practice: The media's role in politics. $9025 over one year.


(with A Martin and S. Wright) (2014). University of Melbourne Arts Faculty Research Grant. Quantitative and Qualitative research investigating if Australian politicians keep their promises: $5,000 over one year.


(with M Simons, R Tiffen, M. Parks, B. McNair, D. Muller) (2014). Australian Communities Foundation. The Civic Impact of Journalism: $30,000 over three years.

(with M Simons, R Tiffen, M. Parks, B. McNair, D. Muller) (2014) Ian Potter Foundation. The Civic Impact of Journalism: $10,000 over two years


(with S Wright) (2014). Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society. “Super-Participation” and Everyday Political Talk Online: A Comparative Analysis: $40,000 seed funding.