Position: Professor of Democratic Politics and Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit
Location: 2.02, 29-30 Tavistock Square
Telephone: 0207 679 4987
Alan Renwick is an expert in the mechanisms through which citizens can participate in formal politics: particularly in electoral systems, referendums, and deliberative processes such as citizens' assemblies. His research is comparative: besides the UK, his recent projects have included all European democracies as well as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, and the United States.
Alan works with policy-makers on a range of issues. He became a source of authoritative, impartial evidence during the UK's electoral system referendum of 2011. He has provided evidence to governments and parliamentary select committees on a range of topics, including the conduct of referendums, electoral reform, reform of the House of Lords, and citizens' assemblies. Outside the UK, he has also provided advice and participated in debates in a range of settings, including Canada, Egypt, Jordan, Hong Kong, and Jersey.
Before coming to UCL in 2015, Alan was based at the Universities of Oxford and Reading. He obtained his doctorate, on processes of institutional design in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland during transition from communism, in 2004. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at New College, Oxford from 2003 until 2008 and a Departmental Lecturer in Comparative Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford, from 2005 to 2006. He was based at the University of Reading between 2008 and 2015, latterly as Reader and Associate Professor of Comparative Politics.
Alan is Director of Impact and Engagement for the UCL Department of Political Science and one of the hosts of the department's podcast, UCL Uncovering Politics.
Alan Renwick's research focuses on the mechanisms through which citizens can engage in formal democratic politics and policy-making, particularly elections, referendums, and citizens' assemblies.
Alan is leading the Unit's ESRC-funded project on Democracy in the UK after Brexit, which is employing large-scale surveys and running a citizens' assembly to explore how people in the UK think of democracy and their broad conceptions of democracy relate to their more specific preferences on how democratic institutions should operate.
Much of Alan's current research focuses on the conduct of elections and referendums. Between 2019 and 2021, he chaired the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland, which examined how any future referendums on the unification question in Ireland would best be designed and conducted. In 2019, he completed a project looking at ways of improving the quality of the information and discussion during election and referendum campaigns. This work fed directly into the 2018 report of the Independent Commission on Referendums.
Alan is one of the world's leading experts on processes of electoral reform: he has written two major academic books on the subject and a third book aimed for a general audience. He has also contributed to public debates in the UK and elsewhere. His most recent research focuses in particular on the 'personalisation' of European electoral systems.
Alan is a leading voice in debates about the development of more deliberative approaches to democracy, particularly through citizens' assemblies. Besides the current project on Democracy in the UK after Brexit, with its Citizens' Assembly on Democracy in the UK, he led the project to run a Citizens' Assembly on Brexit in September 2017, which gave unique insights into what kind of Brexit members of the public preferred once they had had the chance to learn and think in depth about the options. This project was part of the ESRC-funded UK in a Changing Europe initiative. Before that, he was part of the Democracy Matters project, and he has examined in depth the idea of establishing a constitutional convention to consider issues of constitutional and democratic reform in the UK.
- Deliberative Mini-Publics: Core Design Features (Bristol University Press, 2021), co-authored with Nicole Curato, David Farrell, Brigitte Geissel, Kimmo Grönlund, Patricia Mockler, Jean-Benoit Pilet, Jonathan Rose, Maija Setälä and Jane Suiter.
- Faces on the Ballot: The Personalization of Electoral Systems in Europe (Oxford University Press, 2016), co-authored with Jean-Benoit Pilet.
- A Citizen's Guide to Electoral Reform (Biteback, 2011).
- The Politics of Electoral Reform: Changing the Rules of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Reports and briefing papers:
- Perspectives on the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement: Examining Diverse Views, 1998–2023 (Constitution Unit, 2023), with Conor J. Kelly.
- Public Preferences for Integrity and Accountability in Politics: Results of a Second Survey of the UK Population: Third Report of the Democracy in the UK after Brexit Project (Constitution Unit, 2023), with Ben Lauderdale, Meg Russell, and James Cleaver.
- Report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK: Second Report of the Democracy in the UK after Brexit Project (Constitution Unit, 2022), with Kaela Scott, Meg Russell, James Cleaver, and Frances Osborne.
- What Kind of Democracy Do People Want? Results of a Survey of the UK Population: First Report of the Democracy in the UK after Brexit Project (Constitution Unit, 2022), with Ben Lauderdale, Meg Russell, and James Cleaver.
- Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland Final Report (Constitution Unit, 2021), with Oran Doyle, John Garry, Paul Gillespie, Cathy Gormley Heenan, Katy Hayward, Robert Hazell, David Kenny, Christopher McCrudden, Brendan O'Leary, Etain Tannam, and Alan Whysall. An interim version of this report was published in November 2020 and is accessible via the same link.
- Doing Democracy Better: Improving Discourse During Elections and Referendum Campaigns (Constitution Unit, 2019), with Michela Palese.
- The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit (Constitution Unit, 2018), with Jess Sargeant and Meg Russell.
- Report of the Independent Commission on Referendums (Constitution Unit, 2018).
- A Considered Public Voice on Brexit: The Report of the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit (Constitution Unit, 2017), with Sarah Allan, Will Jennings, Rebecca McKee, Meg Russell, and Graham Smith.
- Blueprint for a UK Constitutional Convention (Constitution Unit, 2017), with Robert Hazell.
- The Process of Brexit (UCL European Institute and Constitution Unit, 2017).
- After the Referendum: Options for a Constitutional Convention (Constitution Society, 2014).
- House of Lords Reform: A Briefing Paper (Political Studies Association, 2011).
- The Alternative Vote: A Briefing Paper (Political Studies Association, 2011).
- 'Public Attitudes to Referendums on Irish Unification in Northern Ireland: Evidence from an Online Consultation'. Irish Political Studies, early view, 8 December 2022. Co-authored with Nadia Dobrianska, Conor J. Kelly, and Charlotte Kincaid.
- 'Tales of Two Referendums: Comparing Debate Quality between the UK and New Zealand Voting System Referendums of 2011'. Representation 58, no. 2 (2022), 191–210. Co-authored with Jack Vowles.
- 'What Form would Referendums on Irish Unification take?', Political Quarterly 92, no. 4 (2021), 682–90. Co-authored with Conor Kelly.
- 'A Referendum on Irish Unification: Why it Needs Attention'. Political Insight 12, no. 2 (2021), 16–19. Co-authored with Katy Hayward.
- 'Information in Referendum Campaigns: How Can It Be Improved?' Representation 56, no. 4 (2020), 521–37. Co-authored with Michela Palese and Jess Sargeant.
- 'Can Democracy Be Done Better?' Political Insight 10, no. 2 (May 2019), 10–13. Co-authored with Michela Palese.
- 'What kind of Brexit do voters want? Lessons from the Citizens' Assembly on Brexit'. Political Quarterly 89, no. 4 (October–December 2018), 649–58. Co-authored with Sarah Allan, Will Jennings, Rebecca McKee, Meg Russell, and Graham Smith.
- 'Discussing Brexit – Could We Do Better?' Political Quarterly 89, no. 4 (October–December 2018), 545–52. Co-authored with Michela Palese and Jess Sargeant.
- 'The UK’s Referendum on EU Membership of June 2016: How Expectations of Brexit’s Impact Affected the Outcome'. Acta Politica 53, no. 4 (2018) pp. 590–611. Co-authored with Stephen Fisher.
- 'Pedagogy and Deliberative Democracy: insights from Recent Experiments in the United Kingdom'. Contemporary Politics 24, no. 2, 210–32 (2018). Co-authored with Brenton Prosser, Matthew Flinders, Will Jennings, Alan Renwick, Paolo Spada, Gerry Stoker, and Katie Ghose.
- 'Electoral Reform: What Do Political Scientists Know That Practitioners Do Not? Lessons from the UK Referendum of 2011'. Election Law Journal 16, no. 3 (September 2017), 341–8.
- 'Citizen Participation and Changing Governance: Cases of Devolution in England'. Policy & Politics 45, no. 2 (April 2017), 251–69. Co-authored with Brenton, Prosser, Arianna Giovannini, Mark Sandford, Matthew Flinders, Will Jennings, Graham Smith, Paolo Spada, Gerry Stoker, and Katie Ghose.
- 'A British Constitutional Convention?' Political Insight, Volume 6, Issue 2 (September 2015) 8–11
- 'Is the Future of Electoral Reform Local?' Political Quarterly 85, no. 3 (July-September 2014), 368–72.
- 'The Quality of Referendum Debate: The UK's Electoral System Referendum in the Print Media'. Co-authored with Michael Lamb, Electoral Studies 32, no. 2 (June 2013), 294–304.
- 'The UK's Electoral Reform Referendum of May 2011'. Co-authored with Samantha Laycock, Daniel Stevens, and Jack Vowles, Electoral Studies 32, no. 2 (June 2013), 211–14.
- 'Im Interesse der Macht: Ungarns neues Wahlsystem'. Osteuropa 62, no. 5 (2012), 3–17.
- 'Electoral Reform in Europe since 1945'. West European Politics 34, no. 3 (May 2011), 456–77.
- 'The Role of Dissident Values in Institutional Choice: 1989 in Comparative Perspective'. East European Politics and Societies 25, no. 2 (May 2011), 296–317.
- 'The Expenses Scandal and the Politics of Electoral Reform'. with Michael Lamb and Berna Numan. Political Quarterly 82, no. 1 (January-March 2011), 32–41.
- 'Do "Wrong Winner" Elections Trigger Electoral Reform? Lessons from New Zealand'. Representation 45, no. 4 (November 2009), 357–67.
- 'How Likely Is Proportional Representation in the House of Commons? Lessons from International Experience'. Government & Opposition 44, no. 4 (October 2009), 366–84.
- 'Partisan Self-Interest and Electoral Reform: The New Italian Electoral Law of 2005'. with Chris Hanretty and David Hine, Electoral Studies 28, no. 3 (September 2009), 437–47.
- 'Why Did National Promise a Referendum on Electoral Reform in 1990?' Political Science 59, no. 1 (June 2007), 7–22.
- 'Antipolitical or Just Anticommunist? Varieties of Dissidence in East-Central Europe, and their Implications for the Development of Political Society'. East European Politics and Societies 20, no. 2 (spring 2006), 286–318.
- 'Why Hungary and Poland Differed in 1989: The Role of Medium-Term Frames in Explaining the Outcomes of Democratic Transition'. Democratization 13, no. 1 (February 2006), 36–57.
- 'Modelling Multiple Goals: Electoral System Preferences in Hungary in 1989'. Europe-Asia Studies 57, no. 7 (November 2005), 995–1019.
Chapters in edited volumes:
- 'The Rules of Referendums', co-authored with Jess Sargeant. In Julie Smith (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of European Referendums. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021, pp. 67–90.
- 'Misinformation in Referendums: Lessons from Anglophone Democracies', co-authored with Michela Palese. In Sandrine Baume, Véronique Boillet, Vincent Martenet (eds.), Misinformation in Referenda. London: Routledge, 2021.
- 'Electoral Systems', co-authored with Jean-Benoit Pilet. In Rory Costello and Neil Robinson (eds.), Comparative European Politics: Distinctive Democracies, Common Challenges. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.
- 'The Surprise of June 2016: How Public Opinion Changes during Referendum Campaigns'. In Philip Cowley and Robert Ford (eds.), Sex, Lies, and Politics: The Secret Influences that Drive Our Political Choices. London: Biteback, 2019, pp. 51–55.
- 'Electoral System Change'. In Erik S. Herron et al. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Electoral Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 113–32.
- 'Personalization and Electoral Systems', co-authored with Jean-Benoit Pilet. In William P. Cross, Richard S. Katz, and Scott Pruysers (eds.), The Personalization of Democratic Politics and the Challenge for Political Parties. London: ECPR Press/Rowman & Littlefield International, 2018.
- 'Public Debate'. In Anand Menon (ed.), EU Referendum: One Year On. London: Political Studies Association and UK in a Changing Europe, 2017, pp. 10–11.
- 'The Performance of the Electoral System'. In Einar Thorsen, Dan Jackson, Darren Lilleker (eds.), UK Election Analysis 2017: Media, Voters, and the Campaign: Early Reflections from Leading Academics. Bournemouth: Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture, and Community, Bournemouth University, 2017, p. 12.
- 'Referendums'. In Kai Arzheimer, Jocelyn Evans, and Michael Lewis-Beck (eds.), Sage Handbook of Electoral Behaviour. London: Sage, 2017, pp. 433–58.
- 'Voting Behaviour and Electoral Outcomes'. In Richard Heffernan, Colin Hay, Meg Russell, and Philip Cowley (eds.), Developments in British Politics 10. London: Palgrave, 2016, pp. 39–56.
- 'Calming the Storm: Fighting Falsehoods, Fig Leaves and Fairy Tales', co-authored with Matthew Flinders and Will Jennings. In Daniel Jackson, Einar Thorsen, and Dominic Wring (eds.), EU Referendum Analysis 2016: Media, Voters and the Campaign. London: Political Studies Association, 2016, p. 31.
- 'Don't trust your poll lead: How public opinion changes during referendum campaigns'. In Philip Cowley and Robert Ford (eds.), Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box. London: Biteback, 2014, pp. 79–84.
- 'Introduction to ECPR Classics Edition'. In Stein Rokkan, Citizens, Elections, Parties: Approaches to the Comparative Study of the Processes of Development. Colchester: ECPR Press, 2009, pp. i–xix. First edition published by Universitetsforlaget, Oslo, 1970.
- 'The Role of Non-Elite Forces in the Regime Change'. In András Bozóki (ed.), The Roundtable Talks of 1989: The Genesis of Hungarian Democracy. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2002, pp. 191–210.
- 'East Meets West', co-authored with Gábor Tóka. In Roger Jowell et al., British-and European-Social Attitudes: The 15th Report: How Britain Differs. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998, pp. 149–171.
- Blog Posts
The public wants parliament to have a central role in legislation, so why does the Retained EU Law Bill enhance the legislative power of ministers?
Watch Prof Renwick's inaugural lecture "How can we fix our democracy", recorded May 2023.