Participation and Representation. A Comparative Study of Linkage Mechanisms between Citizens and the Political System in Contemporary Democracies (PartiRep-2)

Research question/goal: 

As in the first phase (2007-2011), PartiRep-2 was a collaborative project of the Belgian Science Policy Office, running for a period of five years (2012-2017). All Belgian Departments of Political Science participated, whereas the University of Leiden and the MZES collaborated as partners. The network has set up a variety of projects on linkage mechanisms between citizens and the political system.

The MZES contributed to several subprojects. Package 1.1 conducted content analyses of the press releases that parties issue regularly to influence news media’s campaign coverages. Combining these data with media content and survey data, we analysed parties’ strategies for selecting topics in their campaign communications. Package 2.2 showed that members of parliaments may engage in personal representation also by working on general issues with local salience (individual legislative activities related to different social security programmes). Indeed, MPs from left, Christian Democratic and other parties respond differently to the local salience of the programmes. Package 2.3 analysed parliamentary speeches in seven European parliaments, showing not only that the electoral systems and district characteristics have a decisive impact on speeches, but also that the personal characteristics of an MP, such as gender, religious denomination and parental status matter. Package 2.4 focussed on intra-party selection mechanisms for party leaders and candidates. The results indicate that a leader of a regional party elected by a primary pushes the regional party programmatically towards the position of the national party to secure the latter’s support in the upcoming election. Package 3.4 addressed the continuous fragmentation of forms of participation. A new survey instrument was developed, showing that Internet-based political activities constitute a distinct form of participation, whereas the currently spreading creative forms of participation further expand existing forms of protest participation.

PartiRep-2 started from the assumption that changing patterns of participation and representation must be analysed and explained from a perspective of decline and increasing pressures on the functioning of democracy. The results of the project show, however, that this decline approach is very incomplete and biased. Both citizens and politicians adopt a variety of strategies to the changing context of participation and representation.

Fact sheet

Belgian Science Policy Office/University of Mannheim
2012 to 2017
Data Sources: 
population surveys, surveys among representatives, content analyses
Geographic Space: