Accountability and Attribution of Responsibility in the European Union final report

This research examines the electoral connection in the European Union (EU), which I define as the linkage between citizens and their elected representatives. I set out three criteria by which to assess the quality of the electoral connection:

1) Citizens can competently assign responsibility for policy outcomes;
2) Citizens have meaningful choices at election time; and
3) Elected officials are representative of their constituents.

The theoretical framework is set within the accountability and mandating perspective of representative democracy. A strong electoral connection requires that citizens behave competently, including some understanding of policy responsibility as the mediating factor to hold their elected representatives to account. This is tested by comparing citizen and expert attributions of responsibility. In addition, it requires that voters are presented with meaningful party choices so that they have the ability to express their preferences and give a mandate on the types of policies that should be pursued. Two chapters which examine perceived party positions and issue-cross pressure assess this condition. Finally, the electoral connection
requires that elected officials represent their constituents’ preferences, and this is tested by a descriptive analysis of congruence on policy priorities and preference for governmental responsibility. If there is some level of accountability, and citizens have selected parties that align with their preferred policy positions, then we should expect government to be
representative of its constituents.

I hypothesize that information and political attitudes, specifically extreme attitudes, both play a key role play in attributing governmental responsibility, in the likelihood of being crosspressured, and in party choice. 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. I demonstrate that information facilitates competent behavior, while extreme political attitudes motivate behavior, resulting in decreased competence.

To analyze the electoral connection, 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 modeling to assess individual- and contextuallevel

A main contribution of this research is linking diverse literatures on political behavior, European elections, and representation to define and test an expanded definition of the electoral connection. I show that, while there is room for improvement, the quality of the electoral connection in the EU is acceptable, and concerns about democratic deficit and lack of representation are overstated.

Download the full report: ELECDEM_WP10_Traci Wilson_ESR Final Report (PDF 1,354 KB)‌

Further details of workpackage 10.

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