Axis 1 – Dynamics of political development and youth as agents of political change

The first axis of Dr. Mahéo’s research examines the development of democratic citizenship in childhood and youth, by exploring the roots of (dis)engagement and the impact of information campaigns on political engagement. In addition, she studies political socialization in a dynamic way, looking at how children and parents influence each other in their knowledge and relationship to democratic politics. Notably, she examines how children influence the political attitudes and behaviors of their parents. These projects focus on how intergenerational replacement leads to political change.

In 2017 and 2018, Valérie-Anne Mahéo conducted a project on civic education and trickle-up socialisation. For that, a civic education program was administered to more than 2,500 elementary school students in Quebec. The project used a randomized controlled trial in the field to assess the causal impact of civic education on students’ and parents’ political engagement. The project was primarily funded by a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant and Quebec’s electoral management body (Élections Quebec). The bulk of the longitudinal data collection has been completed.

In an ongoing project funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant (2018-2022), prof. Mahéo and her colleagues professors Éric Bélanger et Richard Nadeau investigate whether generational replacement is about to reconfigure the political dynamics of Quebec and Canada. They expect differences between the newer generations (Millennials and Generation Z) and older generations (Generation X and Baby-boomers) to be especially substantial in terms of ‘new politics’ (e.g. environmental and diversity issues). This project is based on two post-election surveys with an over-sample of younger Canadians (collected in 2018 and 2019).

Axis 2 – Learning democratic citizenship in a diverse society

This research extends Dr. Mahéo’s past and ongoing research on socialization to include the social context of ethno-cultural diversity. Current and upcoming projects examine how inter-ethnic contact in different types of social networks affects the attitudes of both youth and adults towards outgroups, as well as their support for social policies and their political behaviors.The project (in preparation) is based on a field experiment to test the durability of intergroup contact effects for high school students and adults in the workplace. This project will capitalize on serious games and the technology of virtual reality to carry out the experiments. This project will provide evidence on the Contact Theory outside of a laboratory setting, for individuals of different generations.

Axis 3 – The role of political institutions in the development of democratic citizenship

Alongside communication and education, institutions play a powerful role in the development of democratic citizenship. Dr. Mahéo’s third research axis focuses on the effect of institutional programs and institutional innovations on citizens’ democratic engagement.

Québec’s Ministry of Immigration, Francization, and Integration (MIFI) funds the research project « Le Programme Accès et Soutien à l’Intégration (PASI) et la pleine participation des personnes immigrantes » of Dre Mahéo (for the period 2021-2026). In this project, she will examine the effect of use of integration programs by immigrants, and the effects of these programs on their citizen integration and political participation. She will also investigate whether public programs can help bridge some gaps in political attitudes and participation between recent immigrants and citizens born in Quebec. The project will use a three-year panel survey of Quebecers born in Quebec and immigrants, in addition to interviews and focus groups. Notably, the public policies studied will include recent innovative programs that have been deployed at a smaller scale. The primary goal of this study is to provide important policy feedback to the ministry and stakeholders to improve support for immigrants’ integration in Quebec society.


Dr. Mahéo uses a variety of methods in her research, would it be population surveys or panel surveys, semi-structured interviews or even focus groups. At the core of her approach are randomized controlled trials (RCT) in the field complemented by rich survey data. RCTs, although relatively recent in the field of political science, is at the cutting edge of methodological developments in the field, making it possible for breakthroughs in the study of the causality of political phenomena. For example, the studies of Dr. Mahéo’s second research axis will contribute to a richer and more nuanced understanding of how exposure to ethno-cultural diversity, and the conditions of this exposure, shapes the development of tolerance among adolescents and adults. Furthermore, the implementation of experimental studies in natural settings increases the potential for the generalization of the findings.