Representative democracy is premised on the notion that there should be a reasonable degree of congruence between the priorities of citizens and elites. The quality of representation is important as it affects citizens’ perception of representation and their attitudes toward representative democracy. In most representative democracies, policy congruence is partial for various reasons: representatives may deviate from what they promised when electoral sanctioning is unlikely, parties have informational advantages, or the nature of party competition in mass elections distorts the multi-dimensional character of citizen and party preferences. Yet, we know very little about the actual extent, the determinants and consequences of policy congruence in Europe, be it at the national or the EU level.
The REPCONG project addresses these issues and answers two sets of questions: Firstly, we explore the determinants of policy congruence and the impact of political institutions and direct democracy. Secondly, we investigate how policy congruence impacts on the perception of representation, the satisfaction with democracy and with specific representative institutions, such as national parliaments, governments or European institutions. The empirical analysis will use various data sources for information to find out about individual citizens’ policy preferences, perceptions of representation and attitudes toward democracy (e.g., European Social Survey or Comparative Study of Electoral Systems); and to obtain information on policy preferences of both ‘parties’ and ‘individuals’ as representatives (e.g., national party manifestos, Euro-manifestos or online MP and MEP surveys). Methodologically, we employ techniques from multi-level analysis to reflect the multi-level nature of available data (individual, party and system level).
Funded by the FWF (Austrian Science Fund)
[July 2008 - July 2011]