Comparative European Politics

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 351–384 | Cite as

Evaluations of the quality of the representative channel and unequal participation

  • Enrique Hernández
  • Macarena Ares
Original Article


This article analyzes how individual-level assessments of the quality and functioning of the representative channel affect citizens’ likelihood to turn out to vote and to engage in alternative forms of non-institutionalized participation, and whether these relationships are moderated by individual resources as measured by education. Relying on novel data from the sixth round of the European Social Survey on how European citizens evaluate different aspects of democracy we show that negative evaluations of the quality of the representative channel discourage voting, but only promote participation in demonstrations among the highly educated. These findings highlight potential inequalities in citizens’ ability to voice their political demands: while highly educated individuals are likely to translate their negative evaluations of the institutional channel of representation into non-institutionalized forms of participation, in the presence of negative evaluations low educated individuals are simply more likely to withdraw from politics.


political participation voting demonstrations democracy evaluations 



The authors would like to thank Hanspeter Kriesi, the two anonymous reviewers and editors of Comparative European Politics, the participants in the 2014 ECPR General Conference panel on political participation, and the members of the Political Behaviour Colloquium at the European University Institute for their useful comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this article. They also acknowledge generous support from the Salvador de Madariaga Program and the Spanish Ministry of Education.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Enrique Hernández
    • 1
  • Macarena Ares
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political and Social Sciences European University InstituteSan Domenico di FiesoleItaly

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