Within the research theme “Responsiveness and Sustainable Democracy” we are interested in the relationship between citizens and political representatives in general, and by the concepts of responsiveness in particular. Normative theory in political science argues that elected representatives and political decision-makers acting on delegation shall be responsive towards citizens, traditionally meaning that politicians should adapt their decision-making to citizen opinions. We call this kind of responsiveness adaptive responsiveness. But the elected officials can also be more or less responsive with regard to their dialogue with citizens. The political representatives are then responsive insofar they listen and explain their politics and decision-making to the citizens. Here we talk about communicative responsiveness. We study the phenomenon responsiveness among both citizens (bottom-up) and among political representatives (top-down). We also study how responsiveness and the representative relationship work during election campaigns and what we call “between election democracy” respectively.
The key questions we want to answer are the following: To what extent do citizens and politicians distinguish between different forms of responsiveness (adaptive and communicative responsiveness respectively), and what differences are there between election campaigns and “between election democracy”? Are there different views on what characterizes the good politician and the good relationship between politicians and citizens? To what extent do the political representatives feel that they listen to, explain themselves for and adjust to the citizens, and to what extent does a true responsive behavior actually exist? And under what circumstances do citizens feel it possible and meaningful to make their voice heard and try to influence policymaking? Maybe the most central question regards to what extent and in what contexts different forms of responsiveness from representatives leads to acceptance and legitimacy among the citizens.
We mainly work with quantitative data materials and methods through surveys and experiments targeting citizens and politicians. In the Swedish context the most important surveys on citizens are the existing Election studies and SOM surveys as well as the surveys on members of parliament and members of the municipality and county councils conducted under own auspices. Our experiments and panel studies are conducted through the extensive citizen and politician panels established within the Laboratory of Opinion Research (LORE).