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LINKAGE Report Summary

Project ID: 295920
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Belgium

Final Report Summary - LINKAGE (Linkage mechanisms between citizens and the state. Consequences of changing value patterns and expanding participation repertoires.)

There is an ongoing concern about the legitimacy of democracy within Europe. Careful empirical research in European countries, however, has shown that there is no structurally declining trend with regard to legitimacy indicators. Political trust, e.g., apparently remains stable across Europe, and we do not find any indication that political trust would be declining in Europe. What is changing, however, is that citizens relate in a different manner to their political system. We have clearly established that there is a structural trend toward declining voter turnout, and that this leads to a stronger form of political inequality. Indeed, the group with the lowest education level is most likely to decline from electoral participation. This means that especially the less educated groups within society will gradually lose their ability to play a meaningful role in political decision making. This creates an obvious potential for various forms of protest voting, as this group will feel less well represented in electoral democracy. The situation becomes even more problematic because especially young age groups have a tendency to prefer non-institutionalized forms of political participation. Research among young age groups shows it is very likely that this pattern will continue in the decades ahead. While this evidently is an established form of participation, which can be empirically distinguished, we did not find any evidence of its effectiveness. There is an unmistakable potential for further frustration here, as the efforts most likely will not lead to real policy effects. This source of frustration can also be further fueled by populist entrepreneurs. An important research question, therefore, is to determine how emerging forms of political participation can be used effectively to achieve democratic responsiveness and accountability. The results of the current project do not allow for an optimistic prediction in this regard, but this is indeed a matter for future research.

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