Participation and Representation: Background and Beliefs of Activists and the Inactive

  • Oscar W. Gabriel
Part of the New Perspectives in German Political Studies book series (NPG)


Ideas about the relationship between political participation and representation have changed considerably over the last decades. Some observers claim that more and improved forms of political participation can cure the malaise of representative democracies, while others are skeptical. We examine here to what degree participation can enhance political mobilization and effective interest articulation as preconditions of enhanced representation quality.

Our data show that well-educated, middle-aged Germans and French are their country’s most politically active groups, but this doesn't seem to have greater impact on the quality of representation. We found little evidence that activists’ views differed strongly from the views of those in the broader political community. Thus, there are few reasons to assume that participatory input distorts political views and, therefore, undermines the quality of representation there. Similarly, political participation and a positive view of quality of representation seem to reinforce each other. Generally, participation contributes to satisfaction with the process of representation, while positive attitudes towards representation enhance the level of political activity. Voting in elections and protest voting show the most consistent and strongest link to attitudes towards participation. By contrast, legal protest, party activity and contacting officials are not strongly related to perceptions of representation quality.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oscar W. Gabriel
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Stuttgart, Institute of Social SciencesStuttgartGermany

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