Elections are a fundamental element of democracy, since elected governments reflect voter preferences. At the same time, it is inevitable that policies pursued by any government closely resemble the preferences of some citizens, while alienating others who hold different views. Previous works have examined how institutional settings facilitate or hinder policy proximity between citizens and governments. Building on their findings, the book explores a series of "so what" questions: how and to what extent does the distance between individual and government positions affect citizens' propensity to vote, protest, believe in democracy, and even feel satisfied with their lives?
Using cross-national public opinion data, this book is an original scholarly research which develops theoretically grounded hypotheses to test the effect of citizen-government proximity on three dependent variables. After introducing the data (both public opinion surveys and country-level statistics) and the methodology to be used in subsequent chapters, one chapter each is devoted to how proximity or the absence thereof affects political participation, satisfaction with democracy, and happiness. Differences in political attitudes and behavior between electoral winners and losers, and ideological moderates and radicals, are also discussed in depth.
Introduction 1. Measuring ideological proximity 2. Ideological proximity and political participation 3. Ideological proximity and support for democracy 4. Ideological proximity and individual happiness Conclusion
"Curini, Jou, and Memoli’s carefully and thoroughly researched book answers an enormously important, yet previously unstudied, question: how does the quality of representation in a democracy affect citizens’ participation, satisfaction in that democracy and happiness. Through systematic analysis of 180,000 respondents in 46 countries they show the persistently virtuous power of the "divine middle": centrist governments inspire citizens’ greatest belief and satisfaction in democracy, while also affecting participation and life satisfaction." —Robert J. FRANZESE, Jr., Professor, Department of Political Science, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
"Whether you agree or not that the "left-right scale" is an effective measure to assess policy distance between citizens and their governments, you will enjoy this book. With a well-balanced review of existing literature in the field, a careful operationalization of concepts, and beautiful illustrative representations of their empirical evidence, you will find that the ideological proximity of citizens to their governments is crucial to understanding democratic representation." —Yoshitaka NISHIZAWA, Professor, Political Science Department, Doshisha University, Kyoto
"A truly innovative approach to the measurement of congruence between citizens and democratic governments. An evidence-based praise for "centrist governments", that will be surely discussed at length." —Luca VERZICHELLI, Professor, Department of Social, Poitical and Cognitive Sciences, University of Siena