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Thomas Kunsch, Bielefeld

, Diverse Democracy: Changing Participation

It is important to figure out how citizen’s participation is affecting Germany’s democracy. To do so, we examine both direct-democratic and dialogue-oriented processes. This issue is pursued in comprehensive analyses that take citizens and political elites into account.

Political culture in Germany has undergone a lasting change. More than anything, it has become more participatory. For most Germans, voting alone is no longer enough. Indeed, direct-democratic and dialogue-oriented participation processes have grown to be just as important as the traditional forms of participation in a representative democracy. Germany’s democracy has become more diverse. 

But how do these new ways to participate fit with our democracy? How do the new forms and demands of participation impact the functioning of our democratic system? The preconditions for and quality criteria of more and good citizens’ participation, as well as the impact and acceptance of individual forms of participation and of their results among citizens, have been well researched and empirically examined. However, until now, less research has gone into investigating how citizens’ participation has impacted the functioning of Germany’s democracy and, in particular, their repercussions on the functioning of its representative institutions. This study, "Partizipation im Wandel – unsere Demokratie zwischen Wählen, Mitmachen und Entscheiden" ("Changing Participation – Our Democracy between Electing Representatives, Joining Deliberations and Directly Deciding," in German only), aims to contribute to closing this gap in the research.

Its findings clearly show that, for Germans, democracy is much more than simply voting in elections. For them, having a voice in deliberations and decision-making have grown to be just as important. They see an especially large need to improve direct-democratic processes: Two-thirds of all survey respondents would like to be able to make decisions themselves. Yet another key finding is that, instead of being mutually exclusive, the various possibilities for political participation are mutually supportive and collectively contribute to the strengthening of the democracy.

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