Substantive representation of youth in representative bodies




1.5.2017 - 30.4.2020

Range on year:

0.60 FTE | 2017


prof.dr. Tomaž Deželan

Research activity:

Social sciences

The phases of the project and their realization:

MODULE 1: Self-perception of Slovenian members of the National Assembly 1-36 month - an in-depth literature review in the national and international context (1-6 month) - delivery of the survey instrument (6-12 month) - conducting the survey in the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia with at least a two-thirds response rate (based on previous research conducted in this chamber) (12-16 month) - data editing and preparation of a database for storage in the public social science data archive (ADP) (16-17 month) - data processing (statistical analysis with a special emphasis on network analysis) and preparation of a report (17-22 month) - preparation for interviews with MPs (30); transcription of interviews and analysis with QDA miner toolkit (18-24 month) - preparation of the final report on the basis of qualitative and quantitative data (24-30 month) - preparation and publication of a scientific monograph on the roles of MPs in Slovenia and a publication of one article in a journal indexed by Web of Science (30-36 month) MODULE 2: Citizens' (primarily youth's) perception of representative roles 1-36 - an in-depth literature review in the national and international context (1-6 month) - analysis of the available public opinion polls (6-9 month) - preparation of questionnaires for the web and telephone survey and sampling (9-12 month) - conducting a pilot study and adjusting the questionnaires (12-14 month) - conducting the web and telephone surveys (14-18 month) - preliminary analysis of the data obtained (descriptive statistics) (18-20 month) - data editing and preparation of a database for storage in the public social science data archive (ADP) (20-22 month) - in-depth statistical analysis of the quantitative data (bivariate and multivariate analysis) (22-26 month) - preparation of material for the qualitative study (oral histories) based on the qualitative data (20-22 month) - conducting the oral histories’ fieldwork (interviewing in the field); transcription of the oral histories material and analysis with the QDA miner tool (22-26 month) - interpretation, comparison and synthesis of the qualitative and quantitative data and preparation of the final report (26-30 month) - publication of one article in a journal indexed in Web of Science (30-36 month) COMMON TO BOTH MODULES 28-26 - implementation of deliberative forums with stakeholders (28-32 month) - preparation of recommendations for institutional improvements and for programmes with the aim of substantive representation of youth (30-36 month) - final conference of the project, which shall take place in the National Assembly of the RS (we convened such events in the past in collaboration with the National Assembly) (36 month)

Research Organisation:


Citations for bibliographic records:


As we have witnessed in the last few years, modern representative democracy is facing numerous challenges and criticisms, all of which have some connection to the question of the quality of representation. Trust in representative institutions as well as satisfaction with the functioning of democracy are extremely low, in some countries even reaching critical levels. Under the strain of depleting trust in political representatives and institutions of democracy, it is no surprise to hear emerging voices questioning the validity of the concept of representative democracy itself. Hence, the focus of contemporary debates should be centred on the quality of the current form of political representation and the way it corresponds to the changed political imaginary of citizens, primarily youth. This is in line with the evidence of misrepresentation of the citizenry in parliaments and debates focussing on withdrawal of youth from institutional politics. The population most affected by this problem and also most hostile to this image of democracy is youth. With less than 2,8 per cent of representatives in national parliaments (IPU, 2015), and accompanying evidence of low levels of political participation reinforced by unfavourable political structure and unfavourable policy outcomes (EYF, 2015; Deželan, 2016), the main challenge therefore entails the question of how members of parliament (MPs) understand and perceive their representational roles and, conversely, how citizens, primarily youth, perceive these roles and behaviour. This project shall address two dimensions of representation; the style and focus of observed political representatives, which both have an impact on the characteristics and quality of representation as observed by citizens, primarily youth. Yet it seems more appropriate to talk about role-switching for representatives since they are not necessarily loyal to merely one style and focus of representation but self-perceive their roles as variable. In that sense, the issue of the determinants of those role-takings (institutional, political/career patterns and socio-demographic/personal) is crucially important, particularly in terms of addressing different identities, ideologies and interests present in the political arena. This research project aims to address the key issues of political representation and the problem of the transmission of citizens' preferences to MPs as well as the question of the constraints citizens' preferences may impose on MPs and their behaviour. On the other hand, we wish to identify the type of representation most suitable to the political imaginary of youth and the key barriers to introduction of such representation type. We believe it is vital to (1) identify the characteristics of representational roles (in terms of the style and focus of representation) and their determinants in order to combat the crisis of political representation. This will be achieved by implementing a face-to-face survey conducted among deputies and upgraded with interviews with MPs. At the same time, the (2) identification of representation style and focus suitable to youth, shall be performed by analysing available survey data, which will serve as the basis for public opinion research conducted on the population of youth aged between 15 and 30. To allow a greater insight into the changed political imaginary of youth we shall subsequently apply the oral histories approach. Both strands of results shall be tested and validated through deliberative forums with stakeholders. By implementing this, we wish to contribute to contemporary debates about the crisis of representation npr. Thorley, 2015; Keane, 2009; Rosanvallon, 2008; Micheletti, 2012) and debates about a problem of political participation and representation of youth (Putnam, 2000; Macedo et al., 2005; Dalton, 2008; Wattenberg, 2012; Garcia-Albacete, 2014; Roger in Marti, 2015; Loader et al. 2015).

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