When long-distance relationships don't work out: representational distance and satisfaction with democracy in Europe

Marcel van Egmond, Robert Johns, Heinz Brandenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


We assess the impact of party representation on satisfaction with democracy. Our proposition is that such representation is not only about having a chosen party in government; citizens also derive satisfaction from having their views represented by a political party. We test this through an individual-level measure of policy (in)congruence: the ideological distance between a voter and his or her closest party. Via multi-level modelling of European Election Study data from 1989 to 2009, we find that perceived policy distance matters: the further away that voters see themselves from their nearest party – on either a left-right or a European unification policy dimension – the less satisfied they are with democracy. Notably, this effect is not moderated by party incumbency or size. Voters derive satisfaction from feeling represented by a nearby party even if it is small and out of office. Our results caution against a purely outcomes-driven understanding of democratic satisfaction.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102182
Number of pages13
JournalElectoral Studies
Early online date11 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2020


  • elections
  • EU politics and policy
  • public opinion
  • political parties
  • quality of democracy
  • voting behavior
  • representation
  • electoral systems

Cite this