How do politicians perceive their role and perform their tasks as representatives? These are crucial questions for the evaluation of representative democracy. As representatives politicians constitute the vital link between citizens and the democratic state. In West European democracies political parties have organized the representation of interest since the Second World War making them the fundamental collective anchor of representation. Politicians may therefore be seen primarily as party agents that act out party strategies in a disciplined manner. However, the link between political parties and civil society has changed leading to decreasing number of party members and higher voting volatility. Furthermore, parties have lost control over the communication where independent news media as well as various digital social media platforms offer new possibilities for direct communication with the voters. A potential consequence of these changes is that the representative link changes from a party dominated representation to a more personalized representation where individual politicians become more important at the expense of political parties. If this is the case modern representative democracies have moved into a new phase where links between the public and the state are multiplied and the party control of the political process decreased
RepStyle investigates the personalization of representation by asking three fundamental questions:
1) Have politicians’ perception of their representative tasks changed, so that they think less of themselves as party agents but more as individual representatives?
2) Have politicians changed their representative behaviour so that they increasingly promote their own policy and themselves rather than the party?
3) Which factors may explain variation in personalized representation across countries, parties and individual politicians?
To answer these questions, the project provides:
1) A conceptual clarification of personalized representation
2) A comprehensive description of the representative norms and behaviour in and out of parliament among Danish and British MPs spanning over 23 years in UK (1993-2016) and 36 years in DK (1980-2016)
3) An empirical test of the influence of electoral system, party organization and individual characteristics on personalization of representation