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The importance of input and output legitimacy in democratic governance: evidence from a population-based survey experiment in four West European countries


Strebel, Michael A; Kübler, Daniel; Marcinkowski, Frank (2019). The importance of input and output legitimacy in democratic governance: evidence from a population-based survey experiment in four West European countries. European Journal of Political Research, 58(2):488-513.

Abstract

The study of subjective democratic legitimacy from a citizens’ perspective has become an important strand of research in political science. Echoing the well‐known distinction between ‘input‐oriented’ and ‘output‐oriented’ legitimacy, the scientific debate on this topic has coined two opposed views. Some scholars find that citizens have a strong and intrinsic preference for meaningful participation in collective decision making. But others argue, to the contrary, that citizens prefer ‘stealth democracy’ because they care mainly about the substance of decisions, but much less about the procedures leading to them. In this article, citizens’ preferences regarding democratic governance are explored, focusing on their evaluations of a public policy according to criteria related to various legitimacy dimensions, as well as on the (tense) relationship among them. Data from a population‐based conjoint experiment conducted in eight metropolitan areas in France, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom is used. By analysing 5,000 respondents’ preferences for different governance arrangements, which were randomly varied with respect to their input, throughput and output quality as well as their scope of authority, light is shed on the relative importance of different aspects of democratic governance. It is found, first, that output evaluations are the most important driver for citizens’ choice of a governance arrangement; second, consistent positive effects of criteria of input and throughput legitimacy that operate largely independent of output evaluations can be discerned; and third, democratic input, but not democratic throughput, is considered somewhat more important when a governance body holds a high level of formal authority. These findings run counter to a central tenet of the ‘stealth democracy’ argument. While they indeed suggest that political actors and institutions can gain legitimacy primarily through the provision of ‘good output’, citizens’ demand for input and throughput do not seem to be conditioned by the quality of output as advocates of stealth democratic theory suggest. Democratic input and throughput remain important secondary features of democratic governance.

Abstract

The study of subjective democratic legitimacy from a citizens’ perspective has become an important strand of research in political science. Echoing the well‐known distinction between ‘input‐oriented’ and ‘output‐oriented’ legitimacy, the scientific debate on this topic has coined two opposed views. Some scholars find that citizens have a strong and intrinsic preference for meaningful participation in collective decision making. But others argue, to the contrary, that citizens prefer ‘stealth democracy’ because they care mainly about the substance of decisions, but much less about the procedures leading to them. In this article, citizens’ preferences regarding democratic governance are explored, focusing on their evaluations of a public policy according to criteria related to various legitimacy dimensions, as well as on the (tense) relationship among them. Data from a population‐based conjoint experiment conducted in eight metropolitan areas in France, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom is used. By analysing 5,000 respondents’ preferences for different governance arrangements, which were randomly varied with respect to their input, throughput and output quality as well as their scope of authority, light is shed on the relative importance of different aspects of democratic governance. It is found, first, that output evaluations are the most important driver for citizens’ choice of a governance arrangement; second, consistent positive effects of criteria of input and throughput legitimacy that operate largely independent of output evaluations can be discerned; and third, democratic input, but not democratic throughput, is considered somewhat more important when a governance body holds a high level of formal authority. These findings run counter to a central tenet of the ‘stealth democracy’ argument. While they indeed suggest that political actors and institutions can gain legitimacy primarily through the provision of ‘good output’, citizens’ demand for input and throughput do not seem to be conditioned by the quality of output as advocates of stealth democratic theory suggest. Democratic input and throughput remain important secondary features of democratic governance.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Sociology and Political Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:democratic legitimacy, democratic governance, stealth democracy, public opinion, conjoint analysis
Language:English
Date:May 2019
Deposited On:28 Jun 2018 14:03
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 07:22
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0304-4130
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12293
Project Information:
  • : FunderSwiss National Science Foundation
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title

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