Informing and engaging citizens

The Brex Factor: how a citizens’ assembly on Brexit could learn from reality TV

The Brex Factor: how a citizens’ assembly on Brexit could learn from reality TV

Some politicians and political scientists have suggested that a citizens’ assembly would be the best way to build public consent for any Brexit solution. For this to work, argues Conor Farrington, any initiative would need to innovate to engage the public, and in this it could learn from mass television entertainment.

Representing interest groups: umbrella organisations enjoy preferential access to the legislative arena but not to the media

Representing interest groups: umbrella organisations enjoy preferential access to the legislative arena but not to the media

Lobbying for access to parliamentary and media debates potentially allows organisations to represent the interests of their members and exert political influence. Wiebke Marie Junk looks at which types of interest groups are favoured when it comes to lobbying access in the United Kingdom and Germany. She finds that access to the legislature is higher for ‘umbrella’ organisations that unite many member groups, while representing a higher number of individual people does not seem to matter.

The flawed assumption of the centrist paradox and support for democracy

The flawed assumption of the centrist paradox and support for democracy

The so called ‘centrist paradox’ refers to the idea, proposed by David Adler, that an observed decline in support for democracy across the world has occurred primarily among centrist voters, rather than those who lie at the extremes of the policy spectrum. Elli Palaiologou argues that this theory is based on a flawed assumption that all individuals located between the left and right can be regarded as ‘centrist’. In reality, this ‘centrist’ group contains a large number of individuals who are simply less willing to take strong political positions, including on the value of democracy.

Selfies, policies or votes? How politicians can campaign effectively on Instagram

Selfies, policies or votes? How politicians can campaign effectively on Instagram

Twitter and Facebook have become crucial arenas for political competition, but what about Instagram? In new research, Stuart Turnbull-Dugarte assesses how parties in Spain have used the image-based social media platform and finds that political newcomers like Podemos and Ciudadanos are most effective at engaging voters, particularly when they focus on political leaders and mobilising supporters, but that policy communication is less effective.

Dissatisfaction with democracy in Europe is primarily a function of how well citizens perceive their political system to perform, and not of rising expectations

Dissatisfaction with democracy in Europe is primarily a function of how well citizens perceive their political system to perform, and not of rising expectations

Is democratic dissatisfaction caused by critical citizens’ high expectations? By measuring the gap between expectations and evaluations, Lea Heyne finds that dissatisfaction is not, in fact, caused by voters having increased demands of what a democratic system should be like, but that the gap between expectations and evaluations matters, and for liberal democratic values, citizens’ assessments of democratic performance is most significant.

How not to recruit postal voters in the UK

How not to recruit postal voters in the UK

Joshua Townsley and Stuart Turnbull-Dugarte tested the ability of parties to recruit postal voters in a field experiment carried out during the 2018 local elections in London. The result? Sending personal letters persuading voters to become postal voters is not an effective recruitment technique.

Can voters influence social policy?

Can voters influence social policy?

One of the fundamental promises of electoral democracy is that voters influence governments’ policies. However, whether voters actually have such an influence remains an open question, with recent public debate and academic research often answering ‘no’. In a large-scale study of citizens’ preferences, Marc Hooghe, Ruth Dassonneville and Jennifer Oser investigate the extent to which there is a relationship between the political position of citizens and social policy in a broad range of countries over time. They find that, while there is no direct correlation between citizens’ preferences and their country’s social policy, high electoral turnout and the composition of the governing cabinet do have an effect.

A tale of two failures: poor choices and bad judgements on the road to Brexit

A tale of two failures: poor choices and bad judgements on the road to Brexit

How did we get where we are on Brexit? Many major political events are shaped by institutions and long-term social changes, but the political choices of leaders matter too. Ben Worthy assesses how the short-term decisions of David Cameron and Theresa May have led to this avoidable Brexit mess.

Top-down or bottom-up? Campaigns, social media, and the Scottish independence referendum

Top-down or bottom-up? Campaigns, social media, and the Scottish independence referendum

Using the 2014 referendum as a case study, Ana Ines Langer, Michael Comerford and Des McNulty look at the extent to which the use of social media by campaigns follows the command and control model, or a more bottom-up, decentralised approach. They find that depending on a number of factors, some campaigns selectively adopt digital tools that fit with the traditional top-down model; in other cases, the dynamics created by linking to other grassroots organisations can have transformative effects.