Policy representation in Europe: the 2018 Peter Mair lecture
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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A key challenge of democratic societies is to ensure a continuous flow of information between the people and elites in order to secure representation of citizen preferences. While there may be occasions where deviations from citizen preferences are desirable, political systems with a sustained and systematic mismatch between citizen opinion and policy would typically not be considered democratic. Political parties have traditionally acted as key channels of representation helping to transmit citizen preferences to policy-makers. Yet their ability to secure democratic representation has been called into question. The lecture explores the state of democratic representation in Europe by presenting evidence from the GovLis Research Programme ‘When does Government Listen to the Public’ on the link between public opinion and policy on a large number of policy issues. Beyond parties, it explores a series of alternative channels of citizen representation by considering the ability of political institutions and engagement in civil society associations to strengthen the link between public opinion and policy.