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Non-elected politics. Cure or Curse for the Crisis of Representative Democracy?

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - CUREORCURSE (Non-elected politics.Cure or Curse for the Crisis of Representative Democracy?)

Berichtszeitraum: 2021-09-01 bis 2023-02-28

The project studies whether the introduction of two forms of non-elected politics, mini-publics composed of citizens selected by lot and technocratic governments - can help to restore public trust in representative actors and institutions, and trust in democracy in general. Would they be a cure for the crisis of representative democracy, or rather a curse? In order to answer this question, the project proposes to collect data across Europe on three elements: (1) a detailed study of the preferences of Europeans on how democracy should work and on institutional reforms towards non-elected politics, (2) a comprehensive inventory of all actual cases of empowerment of citizens and experts implemented across Europe since 2000, and (3) an analysis of the impact of exposure to non-elected politics on citizens’ attitudes towards representative democracy. An innovative combination of online survey experiments and of panel surveys will be used to answer this topical research question with far-reaching societal implication.
The project has started in September 2018. Two part-time postdoc researchers have been recruited, Caroline Close and Emilien Paulis. The work conducted during the first year of the project has been mostly centered around two main tasks. First, we have launched WP2, which consists in an inventory of non-elected bodies (citizens and experts) across Europe (EU28, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland). Data collection is organized in relation with a network of national experts to be identified in each country. Each national expert is then asked to collect information on bodies of citizens and of experts implemented in the country since 2000. At the end of year 1, data has been collected and finalized for 20 countries. The remaining countries to be covered will be finalized during year 2. Second, we have intensively worked on the preparation of WP1, and more specifically of the questionnaires that should be developed for surveying citizens' attitudes towards non-elected bodies in representative democracies. We have tested some new questions and approaches in Belgium. Finally, we have also prepared the Data Management Plan for the project.
The main tasks for year 2 were the following. First, we have finalized data collection for WP2, and have completed the inventory of non-elected bodies. The inventory has then been made available to the community of researchers and to the broader public. It has been done via the website of the project and by depositing the data on a public data repository (Harvard Dataverse). A report on the dataset has also been published in the journal European Political Science. Second, we have prepared the comparative surveys on support for mini-publics for WP1. In particular, we have received a great opportunity from two colleagues: D. Bol (University College London) and A. Blais (University of Montreal). They were launching a survey studying citizens attitudes towards electoral institutions in 15 European countries (EPIS project). They offered us the opportunity to add a module of questions within their survey to capture public support for mini-publics. It provided us access to a very high quality sample (over 15,000 citizens) for a very small cost. Since the study was coordinated by Damien Bol, he has been in charge in the selection of a survey company to field the questionnaire and to get the ethics approval from his own university (King's College London). T
The main tasks performed during year 3 were the following. First, we have analysed data collected within the EPIS survey on public support for mini-publics across 15 European countries. A working paper has been drafted and made available in open access (see list of publications). It has then been presented in online seminars in a series of universities (Canberra, Frankfurt, Louvain, Aba Akademy Turku). Second, we have worked extensively on the role of non-elected bodies composed of experts. We started with an inventory of independent bodies of experts but it proved to be unsuccessful since the nature and role of such bodies is too diverse across countries. We have therefore reoriented our work towards an inventory of technocratic ministers in government across Europe. With the assistance of national experts, we have been able to collect data over 31 countries for the period 2000-2020.The dataset has been consolidated and a first article has been prepared. The dataset will be made available in an open data repository and via the website of the project. Third, the team has extensively work on the preparation of a cross-country study on public support for technocrats in government. We have designed a new questionnaire building on the most recent literature on democracy, technocracy and populism. In addition to the scientific part of the survey, the team has also worked on the public tender to subcontract fieldwork for the survey, as well as on the ethical approval of the survey by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the Université libre de Bruxelles and of the Data Protection Officer of the University. The survey has now been attributed to the survey company Qualtrics (which made the best offer). It has been fielded in six countries (France, Germany, UK, Spain, Italy and Poland) over the summer of 2021. After some analyses, a new wave of data collection was launched in November 2021. Finally, we have started working on WP3. We have set up a first survey examining the impact of the technocratic-led government of Mario Draghi on citizens democratic attitudes in Italy. The first wave was fielded over the summer of 2021. A second wave is prepared for December 21-January 22.
The main tasks performed during year 4 were the following. First, in terms of data collection, we have conducted three main surveys. The first was a comparative survey on support for experts and technocrats (WP1) conducted across 15 countries in two waves. It was fielded by Qualtrics. The first wave was done with six countries (France, Germany, UK, Spain, Italy and Poland) over the summer of 2021. The second wave was with 9 other countries and conducted in January 2022. A second survey was conducted in Italy (in relation to WP3) in order to see how a real-life experience of technocratic government (Draghi cabinet) was affecting Italian citizens political attitudes. A second wave will be fielded in June 2022. It was fielded by Demetra. The third survey was a panel survey in Luxembourg fielded by TNS-ILRES. The goal was to follow how the attitudes of Luxembourg citizens are affected by the organization of a citizens assembly on climate change. It is in three waves. The first wave was held in February 2022, the second in June 2022, and the third will be in October 2022.

In terms of tasks for each work packages (WPs), here is where we stand 4 years after the start of the project.

- Pilot study on public support for mini-publics and for sortition in France and Belgium using survey data already available (see the two articles by Bedock and Pilet in 2020, Talukder & Pilet 2021, Rojon & Pilet 2021)
- Module on public support for mini-publics in the EPIS project covering 15 countries across Europe (see below). Paper published with EJPR
- Pilot studies on support for technocracy with students and the Antwerp M2P Panel.
- Cross-country survey (15 countries) on support for technocracy.

- Inventory of mini-publics across Europe: finalized, published and uploaded on Data Repository of the University of Harvard.
- Invotory of technocratic ministers in Europe: finalized, published and uploaded on Data Repository of the University of Harvard.

- Panel survey in Italy on attitudes towards the technocratic government of Mario Draghi
- Panel survey in Luxembourg on attitudes towards the Climate Change Citizens Assembly (KBR)
The project has already advanced research to a considerable extent in our understanding of the prevalence of non-elected politics across Europe, as well as regarding public support for non-elected politics.
On the first question, two articles on the use of minipublics in Europe and on technocratic ministers have been published (European Political Science, Political Studies Review).
On the second question, we have published a series of articles on attitudes towards mini-publics, towards technocratic preferences, and on broader democratic preferences of citizens.