Disillusioned Brits and Overwhelmed Swiss: Comparing Citizens’ Talk about Politics and Participatory Decision-Making in a Pure Representative Democracy and Semi-Direct Democracy

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

For several decades political scientists have warned that citizens in established democracies are increasingly disengaged from traditional politics. As a solution to this, participatory democrats have recommended providing ordinary citizens with more opportunities to be involved in political decisions. However, dissatisfaction with politics is often studied using generalized survey items, providing limited insight into the nature and scope of political discontent or how its manifestations differ across established democracies with different institutional designs. Through a series of focus group discussions conducted in 2015, we compare citizens’ talk about politics and participation in political decisions in Switzerland and Britain. Whereas Switzerland is a typical consensus democracy with a tradition of referendums and initiatives, Britain is a strong majoritarian democracy providing fewer opportunities for citizens to influence politics. The British focus group discussions were characterized by strong elements of anti-politics: politicians are out-of-touch, political parties are all the same, governments don’t keep their promises, and voting is pointless. However participants expressed reluctance about encouraging citizens to take important political decisions and seemed to prefer reforms aimed at improving representative politics instead. In Switzerland citizens’ talk was mostly about referendums and initiatives, while references to specific politicians, parliamentary elections, or political parties (except the SVP) were uncommon. Most participants agreed that direct democracy was a great privilege, however they also raised concerns about its functioning. Namely, that citizens are overwhelmed by the “flood of initiatives” and the complicated voting materials and that political elites are not responsive enough to citizens’ demands.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Consortium for Political Research General Conference
Subtitle of host publicationWroclaw, Poland. 4-7 September 2019.
Publication statusIn preparation - 1 Oct 2019
EventEuropean Consortium for Political Research General Conference - Wroclaw, Wroclaw, Poland
Duration: 4 Sep 20197 Sep 2019

Conference

ConferenceEuropean Consortium for Political Research General Conference
Abbreviated titleECPR General Conference
CountryPoland
CityWroclaw
Period4/09/197/09/19

Fingerprint

direct democracy
representative democracy
Swiss
citizen
decision making
politics
political decision
Switzerland
democracy
referendum
dissatisfaction with politics
group discussion
voting
politician
parliamentary election
political scientist
political elite
privilege
reform
participation

Keywords

  • Political Dissafection
  • Direct Democracy
  • Focus Groups
  • Comparative Politics

Cite this

Rojon, S., & Rijken, A. J. (2019). Disillusioned Brits and Overwhelmed Swiss: Comparing Citizens’ Talk about Politics and Participatory Decision-Making in a Pure Representative Democracy and Semi-Direct Democracy. Manuscript in preparation. In European Consortium for Political Research General Conference: Wroclaw, Poland. 4-7 September 2019.
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Rojon, S & Rijken, AJ 2019, Disillusioned Brits and Overwhelmed Swiss: Comparing Citizens’ Talk about Politics and Participatory Decision-Making in a Pure Representative Democracy and Semi-Direct Democracy. in European Consortium for Political Research General Conference: Wroclaw, Poland. 4-7 September 2019. . European Consortium for Political Research General Conference, Wroclaw, Poland, 4/09/19.

Disillusioned Brits and Overwhelmed Swiss : Comparing Citizens’ Talk about Politics and Participatory Decision-Making in a Pure Representative Democracy and Semi-Direct Democracy. / Rojon, Sebastien; Rijken, Arieke J.

European Consortium for Political Research General Conference: Wroclaw, Poland. 4-7 September 2019. . 2019.

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

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