Best Paper Prize 2020: Lucas Leemann and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen

Lucas Leemann and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen

We are delighted to award the Democratic Innovations Standing Group’s best paper prize for the 2020 ECPR Conference to “Satisfaction with Democracy: When Government by the People Brings Electoral Winners and Losers Together” by Lucas Leemann and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen.

The paper explores the important question of whether institutions that enable people to directly participate in policy-making affect satisfaction with democracy. To address this question the authors created an impressive dataset of the use of direct democracy within subnational units across four countries. They develop a nuanced approach to analysing this data, producing the novel finding that direct democracy does not increase average levels of satisfaction but does reduce the satisfaction gap between winners and losers from representative elections. The comparative analysis of subnational units across different national democratic systems enables them to show that, contrary to expectation from existing research, this relationship persists across both consensual and majoritarian democracies. The paper thus makes a vital contribution to our understanding of whether and how democratic innovations can contribute to redressing growing dissatisfaction with democratic performance.

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