Evidence from Germany: what citizens want from democracy
Although democracy is viewed positively across Europe, surprisingly little is known about the type of democratic processes citizens support. Drawing on new research in Germany, Saskia Goldberg, Dominik Wyss and André Bächtiger illustrate that disenchanted citizens want stronger involvement in political decision-making, irrespective of the concrete participation format.
What do people want from democracy and democratic decision-making? Are they happy with the current shape of representative democracy or do they want something else, e.g. getting more involvement and having a say when political decisions are made? Currently, there is a lot of democratic experimentation around the globe, but we have surprisingly little robust knowledge on what citizens actually want from democracy.
Existing research has offered important insights into correlates of democratic preferences. But we may tap into ill-formed preferences or non-attitudes when we ask participants abstract concepts such as preferences for democratic governance schemes on the basis of pure survey research. Indeed, we know from psychological research that people generally have difficulties in forming coherent and stable attitudes on politics. Hence, if citizens have to give answers within a few seconds without having the possibility to think through their preferences – as in existing surveys – we may be confronted with distorted answers on what citizens actually want from democracy.