Civil society engagement and policy representation in Europe

Rasmussen, Anne and Reher, Stefanie (2019) Civil society engagement and policy representation in Europe. Comparative Political Studies, 52 (11). pp. 1648-1676. ISSN 0010-4140 (

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Since Tocqueville linked the quality of democracy in America to its vibrant civic culture, studies have explored the relationship between social capital and the quality of governance. Yet, few have examined the mechanisms between individual components of social capital and democracy in depth. This study focuses on the link between one component of social capital, civil society engagement, and the linkage between public opinion and policy. It argues that engagement in associations with an interest in the policy issue may stimulate correspondence between public opinion and policy through their ability to collect and disseminate information to policy makers and the public. The analysis of 20 specific policy issues from 30 European countries confirms these expectations: Issues that experience a high level of associational engagement display a stronger relationship between public opinion and policy. The findings underline the role civil society organizations can play in policy representation beyond engaging in interest advocacy.