History and Government Faculty Publications


Posturing for Sovereignty: Lessons of Interviewing Elite, Pro-Independence Candidates in Quebec, Flanders, Scotland, and Catalonia

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SAGE Research Methods Cases






This case examines a range of factors that affect elite-level research interviews. In particular, the focus of my research includes examining experiences from 38 interviews among elite-level members of pro-independence political parties in mature, democratic countries. The locations include Quebec in Canada, Scotland in the United Kingdom, Flanders in Belgium, and Catalonia in Spain. Ultimately, the major contribution of this case is an investigation of some opportunities and shortcomings of this method with a range of different lessons for researchers. Most notably, it is important to triangulate research when using elite interviews because most political leaders paint themselves in the most positive light. Elite-interview research should draw upon a wide variety of people to avoid some of these potential shortcomings. Specifically, in this case, six core lessons of elite interviews are revealed. First, political leaders may suddenly descend the political ladder by losing their seats, or resigning due to a scandal. Second, elite interviews may glean further, unexpected access to the highest-ranking leaders. Third, unexpected information may be provided. Fourth, an interview may reveal a surprise as political events are difficult to predict and the researcher may gain access to events that are typically closed. Fifth, elites may signal to the researcher what may happen in the future. Finally, an interview may occur with an elite who suddenly ascends to a high political position. All of above serve as both opportunities and shortcomings depending on what happens during the interview process.


Quebec, independence, political elites, elites