Civil Society Engagement and Policy Representation in Europe

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Since Tocqueville linked the quality of democracy in America to its vibrant civic culture, studies have explored the relationship between social capital and the quality of governance. Yet, few have examined the mechanisms between individual components of social capital and democracy in depth. This study focuses on the link between one component of social capital, civil society engagement, and the linkage between public opinion and policy. It argues that engagement in associations with an interest in the policy issue may stimulate correspondence between public opinion and policy through their ability to collect and disseminate information to policy makers and the public. The analysis of 20 specific policy issues from 30 European countries confirms these expectations: Issues that experience a high level of associational engagement display a stronger relationship between public opinion and policy. The findings underline the role civil society organizations can play in policy representation beyond engaging in interest advocacy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - public opinion, public policy, social capital, associational engagement, interest groups, political representation

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