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Title: The direct electoral connection in the European Union
Author: Wilson, Traci Lynn
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 6212
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The European Union is often criticized for having a democratic deficit, and most often cited are the shortcomings in citizen inputs. The complex institutional structure, in particular the dual channel of representation (supranational and intergovernmental), contributes to these concerns. This thesis thus examines what impacts the linkage between citizens and their elected representatives in the direct channel of representation. I refer to this linkage as the "electoral connection" and outline three related input criteria: Competent Citizens: Citizens can competently assign policy responsibility and hold their representatives to account; Meaningful Choices: Citizens have meaningful choices at election time; and Substantive Representation: Elected officials are representative of their constituents. The theoretical framework of the electoral connection is based in substantive representation, and focuses on the mandate conception of representation but also includes a discussion of accountability. I utilize European Election Studies (EES) voter, media, and candidate studies from 2009, EES voter and candidate studies from 1994, and a novel expert survey on EU responsibility (2010). The analyses of responsibility attributions and vote choice are conducted using multilevel modelling to assess individual- and contextual-level determinants. I test the effect that information and political attitudes, specifically extreme attitudes have on the first two criteria of the direct electoral connection. The role of information is tested at the individual level through political sophistication, and at the contextual level through the politicization of the EU issue. The first criterion is tested by comparing citizen and expert attributions of responsibility. For the second criterion, two chapters which examine perceived party positions and issue-cross pressure assess how this impacts the electoral connection. The final empirical chapter is a descriptive analysis of congruence on policy priorities and preference for governmental responsibility to assess substantive representation. If there is some understanding of responsibility, and citizens have selected parties that align with their preferred policy positions, then we should expect government to be representative of its constituents. One contribution is defining an expanded definition of the electoral connection. In addition I show that political sophistication and issue politicization have a positive impact on the electoral connection, while attitude extremity generally has a negative impact. Furthermore, the European Parliament is quite representative of its constituents. Concerns about democratic deficit and lack of representation in the European Union are overstated.
Supervisor: Hobolt, Sara Binzer; Evans, Geoffrey Sponsor: European Commission
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Political science ; Democratic government ; European democracies ; European Union ; multilevel governance ; electoral connection ; attribution ; responsibility ; polarization