DIGSSCORE Tuesday seminar

Åsta Nordø: Opinion Stability in Representative Democracies: making a Case for the Politically Coherent Citizen

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Åsta Dyrnes Nordø, PhD candidate at the Department of Comparative Politics will present a paper she is working on:


Opinion Stability in Representative Democracies: making a Case for the Politically Coherent Citizen

Do citizens hold consistent views about public policy? This question has been a heavily debated issue since Converse’s (1964) landmark conclusion that the average citizen lacks a coherent and stable orientation towards politics, and it gained renewed attention with Achen and Bartels (2016) book ‘Democracy for realists’ which conclude along the same lines half a century later. The authors’ conclusions is related to a core normative question about democracy: whether voters are able to hold politicians accountable. Despite the comprehensive literature on this subject, there lacks a common understanding of the degree to which citizens’ opinions are persistent. Nonetheless, the literature identify two groups of citizens that have been found to hold relatively stable opinions: Politically aware citizens and citizens who mobilize on the political issue in question. This article contributes to understandings of opinion stability and its mechanisms in democratic politics through two different panel studies that examine levels of opinion stability in a population and the contingent effects of political awareness and issue importance among Norwegian citizens. The study includes an exhaustive set of policy attitude objects over a longer time period. The study shows that a large segment of the public hold stable opinions, independent of political issue field and issue saliency. Moreover, the results suggest that both the issue importance-stability linkage and the political awareness-stability linkage is weaker than previously assumed. All this serves to support a more uplifting picture of public opinion as consisting of politically coherent citizens who are able to hold the political elite accountable for their policies.

Lunch is served at first come, first served basis.