Indirect Representation in an Age of Networks



The Lonely Citizen: Indirect Representation in an Age of Networks
Political Communication
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The paper examines the nature of connectedness between voters and their elected representatives in liberal democracies in the 21st century.

It draws on a representative survey of more than 2,000 UK citizens to understand the nature and strength of their connectedness with the democratic system.

The survey found that 72% reported feeling 'disconnected' from Parliament, with nearly half (46%) feeling 'very disconnected.'

Over half of 35-44 year olds and nearly half of 45-64 year olds felt 'very disconnected' from Parliament.

The survey also found that many respondents saw their elected representative in a negative way, as remote, aloof or irrelevant.

Delving into these results, the paper argues that the negative connotations that citizens have with their elected representatives can be seen as a result of the rise of a network society created by the interconnectedness of the digital world.

This has created expectations among citizens that political and policy decision-making should not be transmitted from the top down but be organized an inclusive dialogue.

In short, the paper argues that the rationale of traditional representation where voters elect and engage with their representatives on an infrequent basis has been undercut and overtaken.


Thumbnail image: Lena Vasiljeva/Flickr.

Stephen Coleman

Oxford University

United Kingdom
Published Date
August 21, 2006