Inaugural SPIRe Seminar: Dr. Caroline McEvoy (UCD)

For this week’s SPIRe seminar will have Dr. Caroline McEvoy (UCD) introducing her new project entitled:

Representative, Deliberative or Stealth Democrats:
Exploring the Congruence Gap  
between Citizens’ Conceptions of Democracy
and the Democratic Experience in Europe. 

The seminar takes place in Room G316 Arts (Newman Building) from 12-2pm today, Thursday 10/09/2015. The abstract for the presentation and project is below.

This is the inaugural seminar in the seminar series this year and we look forward to seeing you all there!

Representative, Deliberative or Stealth Democrats: Exploring the Congruence Gap between Citizens’ Conceptions of Democracy and the Democratic Experience in Europe

21st century politics has been marked by a steady decline in public trust for political institutions; a decline in voter turnout at elections; and a collapse in party membership lists, prompting scholars to raise concerns about the ongoing viability of representative democracy. For example, Mair (2005, 2008,2011) argues that citizens and elites have mutually withdrawn from electoral politics resulting in the ‘hollowing out’ of democracy while Flinders (2013, 2) and Stoker (2006, 127) argue that voters have gone from having a healthy skepticism of democratic processes towards a corrosive cynicism towards the regime.

Moreover, since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008, debates about democratic reform been mobilized by the public and political elites alike.

This project poses a series of important, but rarely asked questions about why citizens are turning away from democratic politics, namely what do citizens expect from democracy, what democratic values do they prioritize, how well do institutions meet these expectations and does the (in)congruence between expectations and how democracy functions in practice, influence public trust, voter turnout and levels of party membership? Utilizing an innovative dataset from the European Social Survey (2012), the project conducts a cross national quantitative analysis of 29 European states, exploring the gaps between voter expectations of democracy e.g. more participation, greater freedom of the press, protection against poverty etc, and what democracy actually delivers. It explores this congruence as both dependent and independent variable. The findings advance the scholarship’s understanding of voter attitudes and are an important contribution to the literature since they provide empirical support to political theory, which argues that a voters perception of the fairness in the political process is at least as important for generating support for democracy as the tangible benefits that they derive from the system are.

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