Civil society engagement and policy representation in Europe

Anne Rasmussen, Stefanie Reher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


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
Pages (from-to)1648-1676
Number of pages29
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number11
Early online date28 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • social capital
  • civil society
  • public policy
  • public opinion
  • associational engagement
  • interest groups
  • political representation


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