Linkage systems between citizens and the state have been transformed dramatically in previous decades. Structural linkages, like party membership, partisan identities and institutionalized forms of participation (e.g. voting) are in decline, while in a number of countries, political trust too has eroded. Research has shown, however, that this decline does not amount to an alienation of citizens from the political system, as non-institutionalized forms of participation and levels of political interest clearly are not caught in this downward spiral. This project starts from the concept ‘linkage’, to summarize the attitudinal and behavioral network of relations between citizens and the state, and the interaction between these components. Based on the insights of the traditional ‘civic culture’ literature, it is ascertained what consequences these emerging linkage mechanisms might have on the future stability of liberal democracy in Western societies. In the various work packages of the project we investigate the behavioral and electoral consequences of political trust, the stratification and the effectiveness of non-institutionalized forms of political participation and the interrelation between participation and attitudinal orientations toward the political system. The project culminates in a comprehensive volume, based on the question of what are the most likely consequences of changing value patterns and expanding participation repertoires for the functioning of liberal democracy. To a large extent, the empirical work packages are built on survey methods, fully exploiting the availability of recent comparative datasets. In addition we rely on case studies, interviews, content analysis and experimental methods. This project strongly builds on previous research efforts of our research unit, with the aim to arrive a theoretically founded synthesis of empirical findings.
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