As initially conjectured by Norris (1999),
The twentieth century has therefore experienced periodic cycles of hope and fear about the state of popular support for democratic government. If we establish a similar pattern of growing scepticism about government across established democracies, then plausibly this may be due to common structural and secular trends shaping public opinion in advanced industrialised societies.
Twenty years later, contemporary democracies are suffering from ever-increasing levels of dissatisfaction among citizens, ranging from political distrust to political disaffection. However, at the same time, the exit option from a Hirschmannian perspective is in competition with the voice option. This means that a large number of dissatisfied citizens continue to maintain a positive lens on the functioning of democracy. As Doorenspleet (2012) points out, critical citizens are not only critical, dissatisfied democrats, but also well-informed, interested and involved stakeholders who focus on improving the way in which the political system they live in functions.
Investigating two conflicting dimensions of political representation, i.e. random selection (bottom-up process) versus skills-testing of representatives (top-down process), David Copello achieves a substantial outcome in the French context. Indeed, the classical view of the virtues of sortition does not necessarily contradict the call for more experts to become elected representatives, and for more elected representatives to become experts. Such a result provides an intriguing and fascinating paradox that might be formulated in the following way: while random selection appears to be an uncontested tool to ensure better representation, citizens also call for more competent representatives that current electoral institutions (such as electoral systems) do not allow for.
In the same vein, but adopting a more normative approach, Janie Pelabay and Rejane Senac demonstrate empirically that individual French political preferences on democracy yield four types of citizen: non-critical citizens, demo-reformers, demo-transformers and demo-exiters. Moving beyond an overly simplistic and binary understanding of satisfaction with democracy (for or against), the authors convincingly argue that French critical citizens are multi-facetted. Focusing on a number of individual characteristics to disentangle the four categories of citizen, they show that partisan identification, ideological proximity and socio-demographic variables are of the utmost importance. This significant result offers a complementary response to the way in which certain styles of critical citizenship (especially among demo-transformers and demo-exiters) are more likely to result in protest votes and—in France—in a populist far-right vote.