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Most literature finds a detrimental effect of amalgamation on voter turnout in municipal elections. Some other studies reveal instead null or even positive effects. We argue that this inconsistency derives from the fact that previous research has only analysed the amalgamation/turnout relation in single case studies. The contribution of this article is therefore twofold. First, it proposes a unified framework to investigate the amalgamation/turnout relation in comparative perspective, which clarifies the shortcut between size and amalgamation, disentangles the multifaced nature of municipal amalgamation, and outlines clear testable hypotheses related to its implementation – both at the national and at the local level. Secondly, it provides an original 10-European-country dataset of municipal amalgamations in the last decades (comprising Albania, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Norway) to empirically verify such hypotheses concerning the effects of the amalgamation features on voter turnout. Our study crucially reveals the relevance of the characteristics of the amalgamation process. When the amalgamation is imposed by the national government, turnout is particularly low, similarly to when the amalgamation occurs independently from a wide reform scheme. On the other hand, municipal turnout after amalgamation is higher when a larger number of municipalities are merged and when the amalgamated municipalities had a similar population before being merged. Moreover, our empirical evidence confirms the importance of traditional second-order predictors of turnout in municipal elections, even with specific reference to the post-amalgamation elections. Conversely, in such elections, the overall size of the (final) municipality is not a significant predictor of voter turnout.
Populist radical right parties (PRRPs) claim to be particularly responsive to people’s needs and have been identified as a major source of disinformation. The present contribution sets up a field experiment to zoom in on one-to-one communication between voters and their parliamentarians. By drawing on pieces of misinformation that are present among different parties’ supporters, artificial citizen’s requests are sent to all 2503 German federal parliamentarians. In fact, PRRP politicians do not turn out to be more responsive and they are by far more reluctant to reject misinformation. In contrast, parliamentarians of all other parties largely object to misinformation, even if it matches their political positions and is shared by their electorates. In opposition to PRRP politicians who reveal signs of vote-seeking behaviour, established parties’ communication behaviour indicates a high degree of intrinsic motivation.
This article investigates determinants of candidate turnover in 10 European established democracies with list-PR electoral systems. We identify party and election variables that affect the supply and demand of new candidates on the parties’ lists. In addition, we apply a weighted candidate turnover measure to investigate the dynamic of renewal on high-ranked list positions. We built an original dataset that contains 3344 electoral lists of represented political parties. Hypotheses are tested by means of a multilevel analysis of political party list renewal rates. At the party level, leadership change and larger party size in terms of members are found to coincide with higher general turnover. At the system level, general turnover is higher in elections with closed lists and high electoral volatility. At higher positions on the list, candidate turnover appears not to be affected by the party- and system-level variables identified in the broader literature.
As deliberative democracy is gaining practical momentum, the question arises whether citizens’ attitudes toward everyday political talk are congruent with this ‘talk-centric’ vision of democratic governance. Drawing on a unique survey we examine how German citizens view the practice of discussing politics in everyday life, and what determines these attitudes. We find that only a minority appreciates talking about politics. To explain these views, we combine Fishbein and Ajzen’s Expectancy-Value Model of attitudes toward behaviors with perspectives from research on interpersonal communication. Individuals’ interest in politics emerges as the only relevant political disposition for attitudes toward everyday political talk. Its impact is surpassed and conditioned by conflict orientations and other enduring psychological dispositions, as well as contextual circumstances like the closeness of social ties and the amount of disagreement experienced during conversations. The beneficial effect of political interest dwindles under adverse interpersonal conditions. The social dimension of everyday political talk thus appears to outweigh its political dimension.
Deliberative minipublics—participatory processes combining civic lottery with structured deliberation—are increasingly presented as a solution to address a series of problems. Whereas political theory has been prolific in conceiving their contributions, it remains unclear how the people organizing minipublics in practice view their purposes, and how these conceptions align with the theory. This paper conducts a thematic analysis of the reports of all the minipublics convened in Belgium between 2001 and 2021 (n = 51) to map whether and how justifications coincide with the theory. The analysis reveals an important gap: minipublics are in practice predominantly presented as contributions to policymaking, while more deliberative functions remain peripheral. Some common practical purposes also remain under-theorized, in particular their capacity to bridge the gap between citizens and politics. This desynchronization, combined with a plethora of desired outcomes associated with minipublics, indicates the creation of a minipublic bubble which inflates their capacity to solve problems.
Deliberative minipublics are becoming increasingly popular, with both scholars and practitioners highlighting their potential to bolster public approval of political decision-making. Yet, it remains unclear whether minipublics are able to do so in contexts where the public itself is deeply divided – a concern which becomes only more relevant as levels of polarization are said to rise across the globe. In this study, we argue that polarized citizens may perceive minipublics and their outcomes as less legitimate than more moderate citizens. We use original survey data from Northern Ireland (n = 932), a highly polarized society where a minipublic was organized on the contentious issue of the region’s constitutional future. We find that higher levels of ideological polarization and, to an extent, affective polarization are associated with lower levels of perceived minipublic legitimacy among the wider public, although effects are small. This offers novel insights into the role of minipublics in polarized settings.
Political trust matters for citizens’ policy preferences but existing research has not fully understood how this effect depends on policy design. To advance this research area, we theorise that policy controls that limit or condition policy provision can function as safeguards against uncertainty, thereby compensating for a person’s lack of trust in generating support. Focusing on public preferences for asylum and refugee policy, we conduct an original conjoint experiment in eight European countries. We find that individuals with lower levels of trust in European political institutions are less supportive of policies providing unlimited or unconditional protection and more supportive of restrictive policies. We also show that policy design features such as limits and conditions can mitigate perceived uncertainty for individuals who are less trusting in European political institutions. These findings have important implications for the theoretical understanding of how political trust pertains to citizens’ preferences.
Previous research suggests that Europeans want more experts in government, but which experts do they want and why? Using survey data collected in 15 European countries, this study compared citizens’ preferences for high-ranking civil servants, university professors, and business executives over traditional political actors (MPs and former ministers) as ministers in government. Overall, university professors were rated more positively than MPs or former ministers in almost all countries, whereas civil servants and business executives were only rated more positively than politicians in Poland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Ireland, and Belgium. While political distrust is a key predictor of preferring political outsiders, we also found that civil servants are not as appealing to politically distrusting individuals, depending on the country. Furthermore, while the demand for more expertise in government mainly influences preferences for university professors, the demand for more government by the people is connected to preferences for business executives and (to a lesser extent) civil servants. The latter finding challenges the common distinction between citizen and expert-oriented visions of democracy and the alleged ‘elitist’ underpinnings of empowering non-elected outsiders.
Economic grievances, globalization, and voter discontent are among the usual explanations for the surge in right-wing populism (RWP) across Western democracies. However, subjective well-being has recently been introduced as an overlooked psychological factor explaining citizens’ democratic support, immigration attitudes, and populist vote choice. Yet we know little about how general well-being, instead of specific negative sentiments, relates to populist and nativist attitudes. This study examines the well-being bases of populist and nativist attitudes in Finland where, similar to other European countries, populism and anti-immigration attitudes have increased since the early 2000’s. Using the Finnish 2019 National Election Study, we demonstrate that life dissatisfaction, and not only economic concerns, relates to populist attitudes, setting an agenda for future populism research. We suggest that past research has not fully accounted for all psychological factors in explaining support for RWP.