Glasgow Rooftops

Centre for Elections and Representation Studies Public and Politicians: A Broken Connection?

Inaugural Conference

Strong links between the public and their politicians are widely thought essential to the operation of an effective democracy. However, in recent years these links seem to have frayed in many a mature democracy. Turnout at elections has typically fallen. Fewer people feel a sense of emotional attachment to a political party. Trust in democratic politicians and political institutions has apparently been eroded.

This two day international conference, designed to launch the university's new Centre for Elections and Representation Studies, examined the state of the connection between voters and politicians in mature democracies in the first decade of the twenty-first century. It diagnosed whether and why that connection has weakened, assessed the apparent consequences of any erosion, and considered the merits of reforms designed to improve matters.

The conference focused on three themes.

  • What does the public want?
  • How effective are parties and elections?
  • Is there a better way?

The first theme considered what expectations the public have of their elected representatives, including whether the public have become more demanding of their politicians. In pursuance of the second theme sessions examined how effective nowadays, first, political parties and, second, democratic elections are at forging links between the public and their politicians. Under the third and final theme the conference assessed whether possible ways of changing the democratic process would strengthen the connection between voters and their representatives.

The conference was held in the University's Court/Senate Suite, situated in Richmond St., close to the centre of Glasgow. It was open to academic participants, the media and interested members of the public.

Conference participants included:

  • Rt. Hon. Henry McLeish, Former First Minister of Scotland
  • Professor Susan Banducci, University of Exeter
  • Professor Shaun Bowler, University of California, Riverside
  • Professor Phillip Cowley, University of Nottingham
  • Professor Justin Fisher, Brunel University
  • Professor Rachel Gibson, University of Manchester
  • Dr Sara Hobolt, University of Oxford
  • Professor Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan
  • Professor Cees van der Eijk, University of Nottingham
  • Professor Paul Whiteley, University of Essex