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Political Science in Europe

What Citizens Want and What Elites Do: Inequalities in Political Representation in Contemporary Democracy

Political Competition
Political Parties
Party Systems
Section Number
Section Chairs
Katrine Beauregard
Australian National University
Ioannis Andreadis
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Section Co-Chair

The equal representation of citizens if fundamental in contemporary democracies. Yet, there is evidence of unequal access to representation along socio-economic, gender, ethnicity, and ideological lines among others. Inequalities in representation raises important question about the quality and legitimacy of the democratic process. Equal incorporation of citizen inputs in the decision-making process enhance the quality of democracy. On the other hand, limited representation of some groups negatively influences the legitimacy of the democratic process. Inequalities in representation may result in policies and decisions that do not take into account the preferences and interests of all citizens. Representation at its core is about linking citizens to political decisions and governmental policies through elites. Consequently, political elites play a central role in determining which interests get to be represented, which contributes (or not) to greater equality in representation. This section proposes to investigate the interaction between citizens’ multiple interests and how political elites engage in the process of representing these interests.

We aim to fill our Section with 7 panels focusing on parliamentary candidates and elected officials. More specifically, these papers will deal with the following set of topics and questions: What interests do political elites represent? How do competition and institutions influence which interests political elites represent? Do party elites consider themselves as delegates, trustees or partisans? What are their policy preferences and how are these preferences differ from those of citizens? What is their opinion about the way that democracy functions and the quality of political representation in their country?

Furthermore, this section will include papers investigating the dynamic relationship between what citizens want, what elites do, and how citizens feel about politics. Unequal political representation can have negative consequences political trust and satisfaction toward elites and democracy. These papers will deal with the following set of topics and questions: To what extent do citizen preference match those of political elites? Is this congruence similar for all groups in society? How do competition and institutions influence ideological congruence? Are there negative consequences when political elite preferences do not match those of citizens? Are citizens’ dissatisfaction with the performance of the established parties and politicians a consequence of unequal representation and responsiveness of political elites and political parties. How do political elites react to this dissatisfaction?

Among others, and in addition to the Section proposers, the following colleagues have agreed to serve as potential panel chairs and discussants: André Freire (Lisbon University Institute), Heiko Giebler (WZB Berlin Social Science Center), Eva Önnudottir (University of Iceland), Zsófia Papp (Hungarian Academy of Science), Andrea Pedrazzani (University of Milan), Åsa von Schoultz (University of Helsinki) and Anke Tresch (FORS & University of Lausanne).

Similar to the selection of chairs and discussants, we will take great care of selecting paper givers representing ECPR’s diversity along all relevant criteria. The Section is initiated and endorsed by the Comparative Candidates Survey, a joint multinational project with the goal of collecting data on candidates running for national parliamentary elections in different countries using a common core questionnaire.

Panel List

Code Title Details
P036Campaigns and Electoral Behaviour View Panel Details
P070Congruence View Panel Details
P179Innovations in Survey Research: Experiment and Big Data View Panel Details
P309Populism, Nationalism and Immigration View Panel Details
P347Representation View Panel Details
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