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What Citizens Want From Democracy: Popular Attitudes to Existing Political Processes and their Alternatives

Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Ben Seyd
University of Kent
Workshop Co-Director
Åsa von Schoultz
University of Helsinki

There is widespread evidence that citizens across western democracies are distrustful of, and discontented with, the nature and outcomes of politics. Most of the existing research on this issue focuses on citizens’ evaluations of existing political arrangements. Yet in order to understand public negativity towards the political system, we also need to understand the kind of democratic processes that citizens would prefer. Only a limited set of studies has so far been conducted on popular preferences for alternative political arrangements, focusing on features such as the nature of political representation and the opportunities for direct participation in policy decisions. Citizens may, however, hold preferences on other features of the political process, such as the degree of transparency in decision making, the accountability and responsiveness of office holders and the partisan/non-partisan quality of policy decisions.

The goal of this workshop is to bring together research that identifies how citizens evaluate existing democratic procedures and what kind of demands and aspirations they have for the way politics should be conducted. The workshop is primarily oriented towards empirical studies of the way citizens view existing and alternative political arrangements. It is designed to bring together country case studies and comparative analyses, enabling us to explore variations in citizen preferences across individuals and contexts, and thus enhancing our understanding of the mechanisms underlying popular attitudes. By more systematically exploring the ‘gap’ between the politics that citizens desire, and their perceptions of how politics is actually conducted, the workshop should help us to develop a fuller account of citizen distrust and discontent across western democracies.

Paper List

Title Details
A Cross-National Study of Perceived Legitimacy: What Factors Matter in the Evaluation of Governments in Different Political Contexts? View Paper Details
Citizen Competence and Different Conceptions of Democracy View Paper Details
Citizens and Representative Democracy: A Conflictive Relationship? Analysing Political Disaffection in Spain View Paper Details
Citizens’ Conceptions of Democracy and Political Participation in Germany View Paper Details
Critical or Disaffected? Assessing Citizens’ Support for Democracy View Paper Details
Democracy and Economic Crisis in Spain View Paper Details
Democratic Aspirations, Democracy Evaluations and Political Participation: A Multidimensional Analysis View Paper Details
Do Citizens Expect Too Much from Democracy? View Paper Details
Good Local Governance: What Do Citizens Expect And How Does This Affect Their Satisfaction? View Paper Details
Great Expectations: The Effect of Democratic Ideals and Evaluations on Political Trust View Paper Details
How do Europeans Want Political Decisions to be Taken? Exploring Citizen Preferences and their Origins Across Different Contexts View Paper Details
Party Crashers? How Belgian Citizens view Democratic Innovations within and Beyond Parties View Paper Details
Popular Support for Direct Democracy in Europe View Paper Details
Popular Understandings of Politics in Britain, 1937 − 2014 View Paper Details
Process Preferences and Ideology View Paper Details
Satisfaction with Democracy: What Matters Where? View Paper Details
Studying the Demand Side of the Democratic Deficit: The Problem and an Exploratory Study Design View Paper Details
To Deliberate or Not to Deliberate: Non-Participation of Randomly Selected Citizens in Two Mini-Publics View Paper Details
What Citizens Want from Elections: Explaining the ‘Election Deficit’ View Paper Details
Who Wants to Continue Deliberating? View Paper Details
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