This book is about the challenges facing representative democracy in a modern world. Some claim that, in Western democracies, political representation is experiencing a crisis. For many years, representation appeared to be founded on a stable and powerful relationship of trust between voters and political parties, with the vast majority of voters identifying themselves with, and remaining loyal to, a particular party. Differences between parties once appeared to be a reflection of social cleavages. Today, however, more and more voters are changing party from one election to the next, the electorate is mobile, and their votes can go in any number of directions. Moreover, opinion surveys show an increasing number of voters who refuse to identify with any party. In such a competitive environment, parties cannot be confident that any substantial bloc of voters is their own. These trends, it is often claimed, not only mean a decline of parties and party government, but a challenge to the principles for representative democracy.
The book examines these challenges from the point of view of the individual voter. In so doing, the various chapters of the book attempt to throw light on the changing circumstances linking voters to those who govern. Each author discusses these links from his/her particular field of work, focusing on different aspects of voters behavior and opinions, their value orientations and reactions against public policies, as well as their trust and confidence in political institutions.
Hanne Marthe Narud, Dr. Polit., is Senior Researcher at the Institute for Social Research, Oslo. Her main fields of interest are elections, political parties, coalition theory and political representation.
Toril Aalberg, Cand. Polit., is Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology and Political Science, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim. Her main fields of interest are comparative public opinion, political behavior, political psychology and distributive justice.