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Does Inequality in Representation Bring Democratic Resentment? An Inquiry into Belgian Disadvantaged Groups’ Attitude Toward Representation and its Consequences on Support for Democracy

Citizenship
Democracy
Representation
David Talukder
Université Libre de Bruxelles
David Talukder
Université Libre de Bruxelles

Abstract

During the last decades, many authors have discussed the existence of a democratic deficit challenging representative democracy (Norris 2011), of the erosion of political support (Dalton 2004), or of a democratic malaise (Geissel and Newton 2012). One of the reasons of this erosion of democratic support might result from incongruence in terms of representation. Moreover, while looking at representation and the crisis of democracy, some academics suggest that, rather than considering the population as a whole we should take a deeper look to specific groups within the population that are under or miss-represented and face inequality in representation (e.g. Bartels, 2008; Braconnier and Mayer, 2015; Lesschaeve, 2016; Giger et al., 2012; Winters and Page, 2009) such as young, people with lower educational level, people with lower economic status and socially excluded groups. Using items from a survey administered by the EoS project “Rep.Resent” on a representative sample of the Belgian population (n=3144) with original questions, the research aims to take an in-depth look at disadvantaged groups and their attitudes toward democracy and representation. Furthermore, the paper try to disentangle the link between inequality in (descriptive, substantive, procedural and symbolic) representation and support for democracy. Combining quantitative (regression) and qualitative methods (interviews), the paper try to explain the attitudes of disadvantaged groups toward support for democracy by looking at the impact of (in)satisfaction or incongruence regarding descriptive, substantive, procedural and symbolic representation. Moreover, the research will give a special attention on intersectionality in order to see if being members of different disadvantaged groups at the same time enhance, reduce or counterbalance effects on support for democracy. The very first descriptive results show that disadvantaged groups differ from the rest of the population in terms of support for democracy and also in terms of satisfaction with substantive, procedural and symbolic representation.