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Ideals and Actions: Do Citizens’ Patterns of Political Participation Correspond to their Conceptions of Democracy?

  • Åsa Bengtsson and Henrik Christensen

The interest in procedures for political decision-making has grown tremendously during recent decades. Given the intense scholarly debate and the implementation of greater opportunities for citizen participation in many democracies, there has been surprisingly little interest in citizens’ conceptions of democracy understood as their preferences concerning the processes by which the political system works. Some recent attempts do, however, suggest that it is important to expand the study of public opinion from policy output to decision-making processes, and that there are coherent patterns in citizens’ expectations of the way in which political decisions come about. What is not clear, though, is whether citizens’ different conceptions of democracy have repercussions for how they engage in politics. Using the Finnish National Election Study of 2011 (Borg and Grönlund 2011), this article explores the relationship between citizens’ conceptions of democracy and patterns of political participation. Results demonstrate a distinct association between citizens’ ideals and the actions they take.

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Åsa Bengtsson is Academy Research Fellow in the Department of Political Science at Åbo Akademi University and Professor in Political Science at Mid Sweden University. Contact email:

Henrik Christensen is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Political Science at Åbo Akademi University. Contact email:

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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
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