Sonja Zmerli

Professeure en science politique (Sociologie Politique)
zmerlis's picture
Institutional membership: 
Sciences Po Grenoble
Professeure des universités (f)
Accredited to supervise research
Research areas: 
Political sociology
Political psychology
Research team: 
1030 rue des Résidences 38400 ST MDH





The Université Grenoble Alpes is recruiting 1 PhD student as part of the ERC Consolidator Grant Project:

The Politicisaton of Economic Inequality: The Impact of Welfare Regimes, Elites' Discourse and Media Frames on Citizens' Perceptions, Justice Evaluations and Political Behaviour (POLINEQUAL)

Project summary and background

POLINEQUAL aims to study the causes and mechanisms that motivate citizens to respond to economic inequalities. Conceptually, it is based on the assumption that:

1)  individual perceptions of economic inequality are biased because they are mediated by evaluations of justice and therefore do not reflect objective levels of economic inequality,

2)  perceptions of economic inequality are informed by facts, ideological cues, media representations and personal heuristics,

3)  these perceptions and justice evaluations are malleable to the extent that economic inequality is politicized, and

4)  perceptions and evaluations of economic inequality elicit emotional, attitudinal and behavioural responses.

POLINEQUAL follows two paths: First, it investigates the nature of the relationships between political discourses, media representations, ideological cues and individual perceptions and justice evaluations of economic inequality, and the extent to which these are conditioned by collectively shared norms of distributive justice. Second, it examines the impact of individual perceptions and evaluations of inequality on emotions and political behaviour. Its aim is to develop a theoretical framework that explains the causes and mechanisms of individual perceptions of economic inequality that depend on national institutional arrangements, ideological cues, media representations and personal heuristics. POLINEQUAL's research design is based on a mixed-method approach, organised in different stages and combining data from focus groups, analyses of political discourse and media content, online surveys and experimental studies. Pursuing a comparative perspective, POLINEQUAL data will be collected in France, Sweden and the UK.

The POLINEQUAL team will be composed of three PhD students/young researchers, one postdoc and the project leader.

Means and embeddedness of the PhD thesis in the project

The candidate will participate in the entire process of collecting qualitative, quantitative and experimental data and develop data analysis skills. Methodological training will be offered. In addition, the successful candidate will co-author publications and participate in national and international scientific conferences. Within this framework, the candidate will have to construct an original PhD thesis project based mainly but not exclusively on the project data collected.

Constraints related to the position

The candidate must reside in the urban community of Grenoble, France.

Expected skills and competences

Proven skills in quantitative and statistical analysis

Knowledge of statistical software (Stata and/or SPSS)

Genuine interest in and willingness to collect and explore qualitative data (focus groups, political discourse and media representations); methodological training offered

Excellent oral and written skills in English (project language)

A proficient level of spoken and written British English required

Requirements to apply

Hold a Master's degree (or equivalent) in political science, sociology or another discipline of the human and social sciences.

Having already worked on welfare states, economic inequality, moral economy, political attitudes or related topics will be an important selection criterion.

Selection process

The selection will be made on the basis of the applications, completed by interviews (via videoconference call or face-to-face interview).

Composition of the application file


BA, Master 1 and Master 2 transcripts/grades

Research dissertation written during the master's degree and/or other academic work relevant to this position

Document explaining the motivations for POLINEQUAL topics and the relevant knowledge/skills acquired (2 to 3 pages recommended)

Applications should be sent to:

by 15 October 2021

Details on the position and PACTE

PACTE laboratory (Social Sciences Laboratory) is a research institute which brings together most of the political scientists, sociologists, geographers and urbanists of the Grenoble university site, which is one of the largest research centres in France in social sciences.

Type of recruitment and percentage: Researcher contract, 100%

Duration: 4 years, composed of 1 first year + 3 following years

Monthly remuneration: 2,300.00 € gross

Start of project: October 1, 2020, anticipated start of working contract: November 1st, 2021

Location of workplace: Laboratoire Pacte (Unité Mixte de Recherche 5194;; 1030, avenue centrale, 38400 Saint Martin d'Hères, France

PhD thesis supervisor: Sonja ZMERLI, professor of political science,

Contact Prof. Sonja Zmerli ( for more information on this position.


On my research profile:

To understand and explain how institutional settings and features of society impinge on individuals’ social and political attitudes and behaviour, and how the latter feed back again into the broader context, is at the core of my research interests. From a comparative perspective and mostly focusing on European societies, I have been conducting empirical research on various topics, such as civil society, social capital, political participation, norms of citizenship as well as political trust and its interrelationship with welfare regimes, corruption and perceptions of income inequality. To gain substantive insights into the complexities of these interactions and their underlying mechanisms, I fully subscribe to the contributions of interdisciplinary analyses with a particular interest in Political Psychology which embraces theoretical and empirical achievements that derive from psychology and social psychology.


Since September 2015, I am Professeure des universités à l’Institut d’Études Politiques de Grenoble. Before my arrival at Grenoble, I held various positions at the Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main, at the University of Mannheim and the TU Darmstadt (all previous positions in Germany).

Inklusives und exklusives Sozialkapital in Deutschland. Grundlagen, Erscheinungsformen und Erklärungspotential eines alternativen theoretischen Konzepts. (Inclusive and exclusive social capital in Germany. Foundations, manifestations, and explanatory po.
January, 2001 to September, 2006
External supervisor(s): 
Prof. Dr. Jan van Deth, University of Mannheim, Germany