Constituent-elite relationships and their implications for modern democracies

Seimel, Armin (2023) Constituent-elite relationships and their implications for modern democracies. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Political elites interact with their constituents in various ways. Our understanding of elite communication, elite-provided policy options, and elite-shaped national democracies can be constrained by commonly used methodological tools. Using new methodological approaches or newly available data, this dissertation presents three new perspectives on the relationship between political elites and how they influence the opinions of their constituents.
First, in the context of the European refugee crisis, I examine how the announcement of the Balkan route closure affected public perceptions of the crisis’s severity. Using an Unexpected Event During Survey Design, I depart from the typically used survey experimental approach to assess the effect of this political communication and identify the causal effect of the announcement in a real-world setting. I find that political communication has a short-lived positive effect on citizens’ perceptions of the crisis. Furthermore, my study serves as a template for future research aiming to post-factually identify the effect of political communication in real-world settings.
Second, I propose a novel conceptualisation of polarisation that associates the available policy alternatives within a political system with the preferences of individual citizens. This enables an examination of the impact of polarisation at the individual level. Utilising the same sample of respondents, I demonstrate that polarisation can simultaneously diminish citizen support for democratic governance and augment their level of engagement. These findings indicate that polarisation possesses a dual nature, which contradicts the recently proposed negative implications of polarisation for democracy.
Third, I use newly available data that captures perceptions of the European Union at the macro level to test how the national democratic standards shaped by political elites affect attitudes towards the EU. My findings show that the benchmark process by which EU citizens compare their national conditions with those of the EU only partially applies to democratic standards. People in new member countries compare the EU to their national standards, and higher national standards mean less EU support. However, the EU’s growing reputation as a democratic policing body balances out the negative differences that member nations draw between their national and EU democracies the longer they are members. Ultimately, long-term members are more supportive of the EU the higher their level of democratic standards.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Neundorf, Professor Anja and Claassen, Professor Christopher
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-84025
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2024 15:30
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2024 15:30
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84025

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