Eurobarometer: Citizens Engaged in Participatory Democracy

A new report by Eurobarometer on citizen engagement in participatory democracy has been recently published. Here are some of the findings:

A third (34%) of respondents say that they have signed a petition in the last two years. However, the proportion of people who have done this ranges considerably, from 53% in the UK to 7% in Cyprus. Other relatively popular forms of engagement are expressing one’s views online (28%), expressing one’s views with an elected local representative (24%), and taking part in a public debate at local or regional level (18%).

Men are more likely than women to have attempted to express their view using most of the means under discussion; they are also more likely to be members of an NGO or similar association.

A fifth of respondents (20%) are members of an organisation with a specific economic, social, environmental, cultural or sporting interest, while 17% are in another organisation with a special interest, and 16% are Trade Union members. 

The Nordic countries demonstrate a very high level of participation in NGOs and associations, especially Trade Unions. However, in 18 Member States, more than half of the respondents say that they have not had any involvement with this type of organisation. 

Respondents who have expressed their views or joined an NGO are more likely to believe that ways of influencing political decision-making, such as voting, are effective, and also that NGOs can influence political decisions.

And a bit more on socio-demographic traits and participation (highlights are mine):

According to the socio-demographic data, men are more likely than women to have used various means of expressing their views, including taking part in a public debate at local/regional level (22% vs. 15% for women), expressing their views to a local elected representative (27% vs. 20%), and expressing their views via the Internet or social media (32% vs. 25%). However, equal numbers of men and women (both 34%) say that they signed a petition. Overall, 45% of women say that they did none of these things in order to express their views, as opposed to 38% of men.

People in different age groups demonstrate preferences for using different means of expressing their views on public issues. Younger respondents are more likely to use the Internet or social media: 42% of 15-24 year-olds did this during the past two years, but this falls to 17% among people aged 55 or over. Respondents aged 40 and over (26-27%) are more likely to express their views with their local or regional elected representatives than 15-24 year-olds (16%), while people in the 25-39 age bracket (40%) are the most likely to have signed a petition (only 28% of respondents aged 55 and over did this). Respondents aged 55 or over are the most inclined to say that they did not do any of these things: 48% say this, compared with 37-39% of people in the other three age groups. 

Respondents with a higher level of education are more likely to try to express their views via all the means under discussion than people who finished their education at a younger age. For example, 42% of people who finished their education aged 20 or over have  signed a petition in the last two years, compared with just 16% of those who left school aged 15 or below. While 62% of people in the latter group did none of these things in order to express their view, only 34% of people who finished their education aged 20 or over say this. 

In terms of occupation, employees and self-employed people are more likely to seek to express their views using the various available means than manual workers or people who are not working. Nearly half of manual workers (49%) and people who are not working (47%) did not do any of these things, compared with 35% of employees and 34% of self-employed people.

The full report is available here [PDF]. 

3 thoughts on “Eurobarometer: Citizens Engaged in Participatory Democracy

  1. Hi Tiago, many thanks for sharing this. I have glanced the findings, particularly regarding demographics – this resonates with what Lindner and Riehm concluded in their research on petitions in Germany. It would appear that men of above average education are more prone to partake in political processes.

    • Hi Marija,

      This is consistent with a much older literature on determinants of political participation. Some of these patterns are more likely to be found across the years in the US and Europe, although even in Europe they are more unevenly distributed. Having said this, we should not generalize this, in Africa and Latin America patterns of political participation (by socio-demographic) are quite different from this.

  2. Pingback: Friday afternoon reading: April 12, 2013 | The Democratic Society

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