Representation in Europe: Policy Congruence between Citizens and Elites (REPCONG)
This international collaborative project investigated the degree of congruence between preferences of citizens and those elected to represent them. Specifically, this project emphasized the degree of congruence between political parties and citizens while earlier work has mainly focused on congruence between governments or policy output and citizens. In European societies, parties are the most important actor in the process of representation which highlights the need to know more about how parties fulfill their role to represent citizens and which institutional characteristics influence this type of representation. Importantly, we analyzed not only the policy representation of citizens as a whole but zoom in to the representation of societal subgroups such as the poor or women. The empirical analysis used data from various sources: Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) and European Social Survey (ESS) for information on individual citizens’ policy preferences; national party manifestos and expert survey data to obtain information on policy preferences of both 'parties' and 'individuals' as representatives. Techniques from multi-level analysis were employed to reflect the multi-level nature of these data. We show that proportional electoral rules foster party representation – analyzed both in a longitudinal and cross-sectional perspective. This finding holds not only for the society as a whole but also for societal subgroups. Poorer segments of the society profit especially from proportional electoral rules as their preferences are underrepresented to a lesser extent than in majoritarian systems. Further, we present an improved method of scaling mapping individual and party positions into a common space. This method operating through the estimation of an individual transformation parameter for each individual allows for more meaningful comparisons of citizens´ and elites´ position on multiple issues. Finally, during this project we established a new platform for election manifestos, where currently about 1000 party manifestos from 18 European countries are made available to an interested public (www.polidoc.net).