Democratic Participation and Political Communication in Systems of Multi-level Governance

Brussels Conference


This Fifth Framework research project deals with electoral participation and political communication in systems of multi-level governance (sub-national, national and supranational).  It employs a threefold research strategy (survey research, aggregate-data analysis and media analysis) incorporating recent developments in each of the three relevant methodologies, particularly recent developments in the methodology of ecological inference.  The survey and media components of the project cover all fifteen member states of the EU.  The aggregate data component covers six member states of the EU (Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Spain) and three states in the USA (California, Michigan and Texas).  It is anticipated that the project will lead to a substantial improvement in our understanding of the growing problem of electoral abstention and to significant policy recommendations.



Electoral abstention is a major challenge to the legitimacy of contemporary multi-level governance.  The overall objectives of the project are to analyse the nature and sources of electoral participation and abstention in systems of multi-level governance and to make policy recommendations designed to deal with the factors identified as sources of abstention.  The specific scientific objectives are to identify the relative influence on voter turnout of the following four factors: (i) political institutions and political structure, (ii) social exclusion, (iii) political mobilisation (political campaigning and media communication), and (iv) voter facilitation.  The policy objectives underlying the project are to produce a set of concrete recommendations addressing the problems of electoral participation in systems of multi-level governance.  These recommendations will deal with the process of electoral participation at all levels from the supranational through the national to the sub-national and will address the challenge of fostering meaningful citizen participation and enhanced system legitimacy at all levels of Europe's complex system of multi-level governance.



The project employs three complementary methodologies, each developed and implemented at the leading edge of research in the field in question.  The first prong of the research strategy is survey research.  This builds on major research in this area on the participation in the 1994 European Parliament elections by Blondel, Sinnott and Svensson.  A key feature of this aspect of the project is that the support of the European Parliament and of the European Commission was secured for the insertion of a set of questions in the Eurobarometer of autumn 1999.  This provides essential data for the project.  The second prong of the strategy is aggregate-data analysis.  This is a necessary complement to survey based approaches.  It poses difficult methodological challenges but two of the partners (Achen and Thomsen) have been in the forefront of recent advances in tackling these challenges and the methodological breakthroughs that have been made in the area of ecological inference is being systematically developed and applied in the course of the project.  The aggregate data aspect also involves extensive cartographical analysis and the application of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) techniques to the analysis of the facilitation of voting.  The third prong of the research strategy focuses on the role of the media as it affects communication between political actors and the citizens, in particular in the context of efforts by the former to mobilise the latter for political participation.  The media component of the project analyses both media use and media content and will lead to the generation of data files at both the individual and aggregate levels that can be used to integrate the study of media and contextual effects into the multivariate analysis of the determinants of participation.  Throughout the project, the work will be systematically comparative.  The comparative range of the survey and media components of the project extends across all fifteen member states of the European Union.  The aggregate data component focuses on six member states of the EU (Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Spain) and three states in the United States (California, Michigan and Texas). 


Working Papers

Sixth Framework Research Programme Project: The determinants of active civic participation at European and national level
UCD Geary Institute Public Opinion and Political Behaviour Programme

Fifth Framework Research Programme

Links to Relevant Projects