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The Masks of the Political God by Luca Ozzano

Does Modern Communication Technology Contribute to a Better Functioning Democracy? Voting Advice Applications, Political Learning, and the Quality of Poltical Representation

Political Participation
Survey Research
Voting Behaviour
Martin Rosema
Universiteit Twente
Martin Rosema
Universiteit Twente

One of the core ideas about representative democracy is that the system creates a match between policy preferences of citizens and government policy. This linkage is established through elections in which voters ideally choose (candidates of) political parties that best match with their issue positions. In the study of political representation this is known as policy congruence. The system can only function properly if citizens are aware what parties stand for and determine their vote choice on that basis. Research has shown with respect to left-right ideology, which is widely considered to be the main ideological dimension structuring party competition, in most European countries the policy congruence between parties and voters is fairly good (Rosema, Denters & Aarts, 2011, How Democracy Works: Political Representation and Policy Congruence in Modern Societies). With respect to other dimensions, such as a cultural dimension or European integration, policy congruence is more often limited (Costello, Thomassen & Rosema, 2012, West European Politics). This is caused by parties that do not offer the policy packages that voters desire, as well as voters who do not vote in line with their policy preferences (Rosema & De Vries, 2011, in How Democracy Works). In this paper I will analyse if the use of modern communication technology, in particular Voting Advice Applications (VAAs), has a positive impact on policy congruence and thus contributes to the functioning of representative democracy. The key questions, which will be analysed on the basis of survey data from several European countries, are if citizens who make use of VAAs cast their vote more often for parties that represent their policy preferences well than voters who neglect such tools, and how much impact they have. In other words, do VAAs really help citizens to learn what they need to know and apply this in elections?
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