Citizens’ Participatory Competence

   

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

EUOECD
 
Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
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Finland
Democracy requires that the public and its representatives have the means to hold government accountable. In this respect Finnish democracy is effective, though not perfect. Information on government policies and decisions is widely available online and many policy fields are debated at great length on television or in other media. Newspaper readership is still high in Finland. A weak spot, however, is the public’s evaluative and participatory competencies. Surveys on the extent to which citizens are informed of government policymaking indicate that the public’s interest in politics has increased, and that young people in particular are more interested in politics today as compared to the early 2000s. Trust in political institutions has somewhat increased, and the social media have had a marked impact on younger citizens’ rates of participation in politics. Yet the degree of interest and participation probably varies significantly across policy issues. Whereas some issues are widely debated in the media and attract general attention, other less media-friendly or stimulating issues pass largely unnoticed.
Norway
The Norwegian public is generally attentive, and well-informed about government policies, measures and operations, and citizens tend to trust decision-makers. This is partly attributable to the country’s small size, but also to the population’s high level of education, the very high circulation of newspapers and the widespread access to internet and television. Moreover, the Scandinavian tradition of transparency in government helps the free press to report accurately about public policies. However, in Norway, as in many other countries, the pace and complexity of policymaking is increasing, while media habits are rapidly changing and the various media platforms attract different readers and consumers. Although media pluralism is growing, the informational basis for a shared and common understanding of events and developments is weakening.
Sweden
The Swedish population has a strong interest in politics. Election turnout is still very high by most international comparisons. The turnout in the 2014 general elections was 85.8%, which was an increase of 1.2 percentage points from the previous election. Swedish voters tend to decide very late for which party to vote, which may be interpreted as the voters’ desire to gather as much information on political parties as possible before they make their final decision.

The definition of high or low levels of political knowledge is obviously a relative measure. Official data on the knowledge level of Swedish voters is not available. It can, however, be assumed that voters here are not significantly more – or less – knowledgeable than their colleagues in comparable countries.

Recent studies suggest that if voters had been more knowledgeable on political issues this would have changed their party allegiance. Increasing levels of knowledge should reduce the support for the two major parties – the Moderates and the Social Democrats – while most of the other, smaller parties would have benefited. This is a purely hypothetical study, as the perfectly informed voter does not exist.
Citations:
Olsson, J., H. Ekengren Oscarsson and M. Solevid (eds.) (2016), Eqvilibrium (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute).

Oscarsson, H. and S. Holmberg (2014), Svenska väljare (Stockholm: Wolters Kluwer).

Oscarsson, H. (2007), ”A Matter of Fact? Knowledge Effects on the Vote in Swedish General Elections, 1985-2002,” Scandinavian Political Studies 30:301-322.
 
Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
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Denmark
Citizens get most of their information on government policy developments through television, radio, newspapers, news websites and social media. Government documents are, as a rule, freely accessible via the internet, and published work is also often free. Documents can further be read in public libraries, of which there are many. Mail from the public is nearly exclusively going to Digital Post mailboxes. These are now mandatory for businesses and for citizens (with a few exceptions for the latter). Already most public services require online applications using a so-called easy ID (NemID).

In addition to the formal access to information, there is the critical question whether the information available is in a form comprehensible by most citizens. In many policy areas the level of technicalities and complexities is rather high, which is a barrier for citizens to adequately assess government policymaking. This is partly solved via independent institutions like the Economic Council and the Panel on Money and Pensions which serve an agency role on the part of citizens in terms of assessing government policymaking.

Election campaigns serve the purpose of presenting and debating the policies of the government as well as the opposition. A very high turnout during national elections (87.74% of eligible voters turned out for the 2011 election and 85.89% for the 2015 election) suggests a high degree of interest and enough knowledge to consider voting important. In the EU context, Danes are considered among the most knowledgeable about EU issues (partly due to the use of referendums), but turnout at elections for the European Parliament are much lower than for national ones (turnout for EU elections in 2014 was 56.32%), presumably because the issues in the former are considered less important. The bread-and-butter questions of national Danish politics – jobs, health, education, pensions and so on – inspire citizens to seek information and take part in politics.
Citations:
Lise Togeby et al., Power and Democracy in Denmark. Conclusions. Århus: Magtudredningen, 2003.

“Voter turnout data for Denmark,” http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?CountryCode=DK (accessed 8 October 2015)

“Denmark mandates digital postboxes,” http://www.itnews.com.au/News/365479,denmark-mandates-digital-postboxes.aspx (accessed 22 October 2014).
Estonia
The regular and active consumption of news via online portals and public broadcasting services is a fundamental feature of Estonian society. Besides news media, the websites of ministries and executive state agencies inform citizens about forthcoming policy changes (e.g., a change in tax exemptions beginning in January 2018). Extensive media consumption and high Internet penetration suggest that citizens may be well informed on major policy topics. However, there is virtually no survey data on citizens’ policy knowledge.
Iceland
Iceland’s citizens are generally well informed about government policy. In local surveys, most citizens demonstrate familiarity with public policies, especially with respect to policies that either interest them or directly affect them. This is more true of domestic policies than international politics, because the complexity of Iceland’s political landscape is comparatively low. By international standards, it is relatively easy to develop a comprehensive overview of the politics, parties, and policy issues in Iceland. Extensive interpersonal networks between citizens and Iceland’s distance from other countries contribute to the domestic focus of Icelandic politics.

The immediate response of some voters to the 2008 economic collapse demonstrates an ability on the part of some to quickly adapt to changed circumstances. In surveys connected to the 2007 and 2009 parliamentary elections, the percentage of voters agreeing with the statement that Iceland was mainly governed in accordance with the popular will declined from 64% in 2007 to 31% in 2009. Furthermore, the defeat of the four traditional national parties in the 2010 local government elections followed a dramatic decline in public trust in politicians and political institutions. In two of the biggest municipalities, Reykjavík and Akureyri, non-traditional parties were elected to power. This trend was accentuated by the publication of the highly critical Special Investigation Committee report six weeks before the elections. Even so, in the 2013 parliamentary elections, the Progressive Party (Framsóknarflokkurinn) made the largest proportionate gains, increasing its vote share from 14.8% to 24.4%. This increase was due to the party’s election pledge to write off up to 20% of homeowners’ mortgage debts at foreign expense. In the same election, the previous governing coalition lost more than half of their combined seats. The cabinet that came to power in 2013 was led by the Progressive Party.

Public debate surrounding two national referendums, in 2009 and 2011, concerning the so-called Icesave dispute, suggests strong public interest in the issue. Similarly, the 2012 national referendum on the constitutional bill secured a turnout of 49% of the electorate, despite the disparaging attitude of the traditional political parties. Declining levels of public trust in politicians and the associated increase in political apathy coincide with a noticeable deterioration in how well-informed citizens are about national and international affairs. In the 2014 local government elections, voter turnout declined further from 2010. In 2006, voter turnout had been 78.7%. In 2010, it declined to 73.5% and in 2014 it dropped to 66.5%. At 79%, voter turnout in the parliamentary election of 2016 was the lowest recorded since the early years of the 20th century. Turnout among people aged 18 to 25 years old is especially low. Most current electoral research indicates that a significant proportion of young people do not vote due to apathy and lack of interest in politics.
Citations:
Önnudóttir, E.H. and Hardarson, Ó. Th. (2009): Óánægðir lýðræðissinnar: Afstaða Íslendinga til lýðræðis. (Dissatisfied democrats: The Icelanders’ attitudes toward democracy). In Gudmundsson, H.S. and Ómarsdóttir, S. B. (2009) Rannsóknirí félagsvísindum X. Reykjavík, Háskólaútgáfan.

Eythórsson, G & Kowalczyk, M (2013): Explaining the low voter turnout in Iceland’s 2010 local government elections. In: Samtíð. An Icelandic journal of society and culture. Vol 1. 2013. (http://samtid.is/index.php/samtid/article/view/2)

Eythórsson G T, Önnudóttir E H, Hardarson Ó T, Valgardsson V O, Jónsdóttir G A, Björnsdóttir A E and Birgisson H E (2014): Sveitarstjórnarkosningarnar 2014: Hverjar eru ástæður dræmrar kjörsóknar? (What are the main reasons for the low voter turnout in the Local Government elections in 2014?).

Eythórsson, G T and Önnudóttir, E H (2017): Abstainers reasoning for not voting in the Icelandic Local Government Election 2014. In: “Íslenska þjóðfélagið” Vol 8, No 1 2017. http://thjodfelagid.is/index.php/Th/article/view/86
Ireland
In the 2016 general election, electoral turnout dropped to 65.2% from 70.1% in 2011. This fall in turnout reflects economic recovery and strong rates of economic growth.

The proportion of Irish respondents claiming to have heard of various European institutions is consistently higher than the EU average. The level of personal familiarity with elected politicians is very high – it has been claimed that a majority of the electorate have actually been canvassed by at least one person seeking election to the national parliament. In addition, the quality of debate on policy issues is high.
Israel
Compared to other countries, Israeli citizens show high levels of interest in politics. In a 2014 survey, 61.5% of respondents characterized themselves as “very interested” or “somewhat interested.” Israel also has one of the region’s highest internet-penetration rates (reaching 78.9% in 2017); a lively, pluralistic and independent news media; and a politically heterogeneous and active civil society.

Nevertheless, while Israeli citizens often exhibit high levels of political engagement, this does not automatically translate into knowledge and information regarding policymaking.

In recent years, the government has expanded its efforts with regard to policy transparency. In 2011, Israel joined the Open Government Partnership, and was recognized the following year in a United Nations survey for making outstanding progress in the area of e-government. In 2016, the government announced the launch of a program designed to open all governmental databases to public access. This step is part of an ongoing policy of increasing transparency by expanding the authority of the Governmental Unit for Freedom of Information, and by funding this unit’s projects.

In 2015, the Knesset approved the creation of the Special Committee for the Transparency and Accessibility of Government Information, which acts as the parliamentary auxiliary for the implementation of the Freedom of Information Law. This committee decided to post all Knesset committee protocols and decisions online, and to facilitate direct contact with committee directors.
Citations:
“Freedom of the Press: Israel 2017,” Freedom House, 2017 https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2017/israel

Hermann, Tamar et.al., The Israeli Democracy Index 2016, The Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem 2016. https://en.idi.org.il/media/7811/democracy-index-2016-eng.pdf

“Joining the Open Government Partnership and the nomination of the ‘Open Government Israeli Forum’,” Prime Minister Office website 2012 (Hebrew)

“The Government approved today the publication of all governmental databases” http://www.themarker.com/news/politics/1.3053541 (Hebrew)

“The Knesset Presents: Advanced Committee Web Portals Now Available,” http://www.ch10.co.il/news/110674/#.V8R-rvl9670 (Hebrew)

“The Special Committee for the Transparency and Accessibility of Government Information,” The Knesset Website (Hebrew): http://main.knesset.gov.il/Activity/Committees/GovInfo/Pages/default.aspx

The World Bank internet Users Data http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER.P2

“Yearly Report on the Implementation of the Law of Freedom of Information 2014” Ministry of Justice website – The Governmental Unit for Freedom of Information (Hebrew): http://index.justice.gov.il/Units/YechidatChofeshHameyda/Report2014/index.html

Herman, Tamar and Ella Heller, Tzipy Laza-Shoef, Fadi Omar, “The Israeli Democracy Index 2017. Summary,” 2017, https://en.idi.org.il/media/9837/israeli-democracy-index-2017-en-summary.pdf
Luxembourg
Citizens are expected to have sufficient knowledge of the three official languages of Luxembourg to facilitate social inclusion. About 47% of residents are foreigners and multilingualism is the “compétence légitime” in Luxembourg. However, knowledge of Luxembourgish has an important role in political participation, as most political debates and information distribution takes place in this specific national language. This may make it more difficult for non-speakers to participate in the political sphere. Foreigners have expressed a distinct wish to participate more substantially in policy development. This interest in Luxembourg’s public life and political commitment depends on political empowerment and active participation in social life. Hence, not only voting rights but also the distribution of multilingual political information is extremely important in promoting active political participation and enabling influence in decision-making.
Citations:
Bilan de la participation électorale aux élections communales d’octobre 2011. Centre d’étude et de formation interculturelles et sociales, 2011. www.statistiques.public.lu/fr/actualites/conditions-sociales/politique/2013/05/20130130/presentationetudeCEFIS.pdf. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.


Europeans and their Languages. European Commission, 2012. www.ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_en.pdf. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Fetzer, Joel S. Luxembourg as an Immigration Success Story: The Grand Duchy in Pan-European Perspective. Lexington Books, 2011.

Mäßiges Interesse bei den Ausländern.” Luxemburger Wort, 30 July 2017, https://www.wort.lu/de/politik/kommunalwahlen-maessiges-interesse-bei-den-auslaendern-597b4ac9a5e74263e13c4dfc?utm_campaign=magnet&utm_source=article_page&utm_medium=related_articles. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

Fehlen, Fernand. “Sprachenpolitik in der Großregion SaarLorLux.” Die Grossregion SaarLorLux: Anspruch, Wirklichkeiten, Perspektiven, edited by Wolfgang H. Lorig, Sascha Regolot, and Stefan Henn, Springer VS, 2016, pp. 73 – 94.
Switzerland
There is some debate as to whether citizens are well informed in Switzerland. One of the first studies on the issue, based on surveys conducted after popular votes, found that only one out of six voters had a high level of policy knowledge. Studies based on larger data sets and relating to more recent data have showed that about 50% of citizens have good knowledge on public policy issues (i.e., they know the issue at hand and can provide reasons for their decisions). A recent study concluded that roughly equal shares of the citizenry lack civic competences, have medium competence and have a high level of competence. The voting behavior in the tax reform of 2017 showed the power of “no-heuristics.” In cases where the public feel insufficiently informed they vote against change. Three-quarters of respondents said they had difficulties understanding the proposal (which was of eminent importance to the economy) and a third of those who voted “no” explained their vote by their lack of knowledge (VOTO 2017, Kriesi 2005b). Another important explanatory variable for public knowledge of the content of a bill, participation and voting behavior is the intensity of the campaign around a given issue.

Another recent study found that just 42% of Swiss citizens knew how many parties were in the government (which at the time of the survey had not changed during the previous five decades). Moreover, 36% knew how many signatures were needed to trigger a referendum, and about 45% knew the number of EU member states.

In a 2007 comparative study titled “Citizenship and Involvement in Europe,” Swiss citizens scored at the same level as their counterparts in the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway with regard to the importance attributed to politics and interest in politics in general. These four countries demonstrated the highest scores among the 11 countries under study. In another recent study on political interest and sophistication, Switzerland ranked in sixth place (behind Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Germany) among the 21 European countries examined in the European Social Survey. An analysis in 2005 showed that citizens are relatively well informed and rational when making decisions in direct-democratic votes (Kriesi 2005a). Either they consider arguments and counterarguments, or rely on reasonable heuristics. One of these heuristics is the “no-heuristic” (i.e., when the public are in doubt they tend to vote against the respective proposal). Thus, in general it seems fair to say that Swiss citizens are as well informed about policies as citizens in other mature and wealthy democracies.

There are, however, limitations to this cue-taking as an effective means of political decision-making. For example, since 2014 a large share of citizens believe claims by right-populist politicians that the European Union is so invested in Switzerland, that it must renegotiate the bilateral agreements to allow for the constitutional amendment limiting immigration. Based on this argument, a majority of citizens supported the new constitutional amendment. From the very beginning, however, the European Union made clear that it would not enter negotiations over the free movement of labor. Hence, limited political knowledge on the part of citizens, common to all democracies, and ideological contentions by political elites, used as reliable cues by knowledge-poor citizens, may lead to political cul-de-sac situations in a direct democracy.
Citations:
Hanspeter Kriesi, 2005a: Argument-Based Strategies in Direct-Democratic Votes: The Swiss Experience, Acta Politica 40: 299-316.

Hanspeter Kriesi, 2005b: Direct Democratic Choice. The Swiss Experience. Lanham: Rowmann & Littlefield.

VOTO 2017: VOTO-Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 12. Februar 2017, Lausanne, Aarau, Luzern: FORS et al.
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Belgium
There are few sources of data that allow one to assess the citizenry’s level of information with precision. However, it is possible to surmise that individuals’ policy knowledge must have increased under this government, if only because some measures are controversial, and controversy attracts media attention. The last legislative elections and the recent government change in Wallonia has put right-wing parties and the Christian Democrats in power at the federal level and in the Flemish and Walloon governments, with the Socialists and other parties controlling the region of Brussels. This has increased polarization, but should also improve accountability. Belgian citizens have access to an independent press, and government interference with the media is limited to the usual pressure to emphasize favorable news.
Japan
There is a substantial amount of information about policies available in Japan. For instance, ministries regularly publish so-called white papers, which explain the current conditions, challenges and policies being implemented in certain policy areas in great detail.

However, this does not necessarily mean that citizens feel satisfied with the information available or consider it trustworthy. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in government reached a low point after the 3/11 disasters. It has recovered somewhat since, but in 2017 stood at only 37%, more than 10 points lower than in pre-disaster 2011, and two points lower than in 2016.
Citations:
Edelman, 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer – Japan, Slide show, 21 March 2017, https://de.slideshare.net/EdelmanAPAC/2017-edelman-trust-barometer-japan-73399853
New Zealand
The most recent comparative data set which includes information on New Zealand policy knowledge is the International Social Survey Program. In the 2004 edition, New Zealand respondents overwhelmingly (69%) felt that they had a good or very good understanding of important political issues. Only about 13% of respondents said that most people are better informed about government and politics. The 2007 edition of the survey however did not include this question. Regarding the question, “How interested would you say you personally are in politics?” there was a slight decline of political interest in New Zealand between 2004 and 2007. According to survey data from the New Zealand Election Study of 2014, approximately two-thirds of respondents expressed satisfaction with the state of their democracy.

While levels of party membership and voter turnout have been in sharp decline – voter turnout dropping from the 80s and low 90s percentiles for much of the postwar period to 74% in 2011 with a minor increase in 2014 to 78% – there is evidence to suggest that levels of political knowledge and engagement are not as worryingly low as figures might suggest. This said, participation rates among the young suggest that generational disaffection during the review period is at an all-time high. According to OECD data, however, children in New Zealand are more civically engaged than on average in the OECD. In New Zealand, 84.4% of 14-year olds intend to vote in elections when they are adults, compared to the OECD average of 78.7%.

From time to time, matters of constitutional importance or public interest are put to voters by way either of citizen- or government-initiated referendums. In 2015 – 2016, for example, the government conducted a two-stage referendum on whether New Zealand should replace its national flag.
Citations:
International Social Survey Programme 2004: Citizenship: http://zacat.gesis.org/webview/index.jsp?object=http://zacat.gesis.org/obj/fStudy/ZA3950.
International Social Survey Programme 2007: Leisure Time and Sports: http://zacat.gesis.org/webview/index.jsp?object=http://zacat.gesis.org/obj/fStudy/ZA4850.
New Zealand Election Study, University of Auckland, 2011-12.
Voter turnout: http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/snapshots-of-nz/nz-social-indicators/Home/Trust%20and%20participation%20in%20government/voter-turnout.aspx (accessed October 9, 2014).
OECD Better Life Initiative: How is Life in New Zealand? Update from 31 May 2016. http://www.oecd.org/statistics/better-life-initiative.htm#Countrynotes (accessed June 30, 2016).
South Korea
The 2017 presidential elections saw a slight increase in voter turnout to 77.2%. More importantly, the degree of public engagement and public protest directed against President Park revealed a great interest in political events. Millions of Koreans participated in the protests that led to Park’s impeachment. While most were spontaneous protesters, there was a great deal of organization involved in these protests. In particular, it is remarkable that many young people and students participated in the protests. Nevertheless, many citizens remain poorly informed about the details of most government policies. The level of public knowledge can vary across different sectors and policies. For example, the Seoul Metropolitan Government conducted a public survey in May 2017 with a sample of 2,500 adults residing in Seoul seeking to gauge public opinion on Seoul’s “Sharing City” policy. Given that the awareness rate was 49.3%, only one out of every two Seoul citizens had heard of the policy.

Despite the access to information provided by online platforms such as Sinmungo and the government’s Policy Briefing webpage (www.korea.kr), the quality of information available remains limited. In the media, political questions are often personalized and interpreted as power struggles between ambitious individuals, rather than as struggles about policies as such. In addition, the spectrum of published political opinions remains very narrow, limiting the scope of political discussion and making it hard for citizens to develop their own opinion. The low level of trust in government announcements and in the mainstream media provides fertile ground for the dissemination of rumors. Fake news sources further distort the truth. However, numerous NGOs and enlightened netizens, acting on behalf of citizens, are playing a pivotal role in monitoring the public and private sectors by getting and sharing information from the government.
Citations:
Korea Center for Freedom of Information and Transparent Society at http://www.opengirok.or.kr/
Share Hub. One out of every two Seoul citizens has heard of “Sharing City” policy – results of a survey of the public awareness of Sharing City Seoul policy. July 19, 2016
http://english.sharehub.kr/one-out-of-every-two-seoul-citizens-has-heard-of-sharing-city-policy-results-of-a-survey-of-the-public-awareness-of-sharing-city-seoul-policy/
UK
The UK government provides considerable information to its citizens through detailed websites, both at the core executive and the ministerial level. This flow of information has been enhanced in recent years. These websites contain general information, progress reports and statistical data. As part of its online material, the government makes some effort to ensure that citizens use this information by targeting specific groups. For example, a digital voter registration toolkit was developed in conjunction with a single-parent charity, while the “Rock Enrol!@” pack was designed to engage young people. The most important source of knowledge for citizens is TV broadcasting, followed by newspapers and radio.

According to an opinion poll by Ipsos MORI in 2010, 53% of those asked said that they had “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of knowledge about politics, while 47% answered that they had “not very much” knowledge or knew “nothing at all.” The share of those claiming knowledge has risen over the previous decade by about 10 percentage points, indicating a subjectively better understanding of politics by citizens in the United Kingdom. A telling figure is that the proportion of citizens voting in certain television talent competitions is higher than in many national elections. A more recent 2017 IPSOS-MORI “peril of perception” poll found the United Kingdom to be at the higher end of knowledge of widely discussed issues, though behind the better-informed Nordic countries.
Citations:
Ipsos MORI 2011: Knowledge of Politics 2003-2010; http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/2757/Knowledge-of-Politics-20032010.aspx?view=wide
https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/perils-perception-2017
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Australia
Opinion surveys indicate Australians have a moderate level of understanding of government policies, and that their level of knowledge increases substantially during election campaigns when they pay greater attention to policy matters. Media coverage tends to be limited due to the lack of diversity in Australian media, which is potentially a contributing factor hindering citizens’ policy knowledge. On the other hand, voting in elections of all levels of government is compulsory in Australia, which on balance is likely to increase the general level of awareness of government and opposition policies. Furthermore, media coverage of policy platforms during election campaigns is substantial.

Australian citizens have shown a declining interest in political issues in recent years. During the 2013 federal election, 20% of adults did not vote, because they were not enrolled or failed to cast a valid vote. However, in recent years, the Australian Electoral Commission has made a concerted effort to increase enrollment, which has increased enrollment of the adult population from 92% in 2013 to 96% in 2017. That said, 9% of enrolled voters did not cast a valid vote at the 2016 election, a record high since voting became compulsory in 1925.
Citations:
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/election-2016-voter-turnout-lowest-since-compulsory-voting-began-in-1925-20160808-gqnij2.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-07/why-do-we-have-compulsory-voting/7484390

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/one-nation-immigrants-in-inner-west-and-south-west-shift-support-to-pauline-hansons-party/news-story/78152502617feb5659ac54ca6313dc97
Austria
A minority of Austrian citizens are well informed, but the majority is informed only within rather narrow limits. On the one hand, this is because political parties (and the government) do not provide full information on decision-makers’ debates and strategic thinking. On the other, it is due to the characteristics of the Austrian print media, with the yellow press (and its often very strong bias) dominating large parts of the print-media market. However, a majority of Austrians show limited interest in politics, a characteristic perhaps reinforced by the comparatively minimal opportunity for direct participation within the political system.

One thread of political discourse in Austria has focused on increasing citizens’ direct role within decision-making processes, a discussion that helped lead to the popular referendum in 2013 over the future of the military draft. In this, a majority opted for keeping the draft system rather than creating a professional army. In spite of the non-binding character of this consultation, all political parties agreed that the result should be respected. The public discourse generally favors more direct democratic participation. And some particularly sensitive topics, such as the possibility of Turkey’s EU membership, lead to promises by most or all political parties to have binding popular consultations before government and parliament determine Austria’s final position.

The new government (ÖVP, FPÖ) has promised to lower the threshold for securing a plebiscite. This may have an important impact on decision-making, but it will not change the reality of public knowledge in Austria or in other democracies. Interest in politics is not equally distributed among citizens.
Canada
Few citizens are well informed about government policies. Indeed, most citizens have only a rudimentary knowledge of key public policy issues, as revealed by public opinion polls. A 2013 comparative study of 10 countries found that Canada is ahead of the United States but lags behind European countries in terms of political knowledge. The same study also found a significant gender gap: Canadian women scored 30% lower on average than did Canadian men when tested on their knowledge of hard-news items. Like other established democracies, Canada is particularly falling behind with regard to young voters’ political literacy: younger people are less politically literate than older people by a margin of 20 to 30 percentage points, as shown in a recent study by Stockemer and Rocher (2017). The authors concluded that this generational political knowledge gap accounts for approximately half of the difference in turnout between voters in their early 20s and voters in their 50s.
Citations:
Curran, James et al. (2013) Gender Matters Globally: An Examination of Gaps in Political Knowledge in a 10-Nation Comparative Study.

Stockemer, Daniel and Francois Rocher. Age, political knowledge and electoral turnout: a case study of Canada
Commonwealth & Comparative Politics Vol. 55 (1), 2017.
Czech Rep.
With the increasing accessibility of online information, information on government policies is increasingly available to all Czech citizens. However, exacerbated by the deteriorating state of the Czech media landscape and its increasing populist tendency, citizens are often poorly informed regarding important policy issues and have a limited ability to come to informed decisions. In 2017, this tendency strengthened, as particularly the MAFRA media presented a much-distorted picture of governmental policies – usually praising the ANO ministers and criticizing the prime minister and non-ANO ministers. According to surveys, about half of Czechs have a general interest in politics, a more or less stable level over the last ten years.
France
Citizens’ interest in politics and their participation in the political process have been on the decline in recent decades. Obtaining their information primarily from television, most citizens are poorly informed. Television stations devote little time to any political topic and tend to prefer talk shows where people express their views, rather than using prime-time hours for political information. Information follows mobilization, rather than the other way around, evidenced by the protest movements against TTIP and CETA. Information is often provided on a certain topic once a group of citizens or political activists have succeeded in attracting media attention.

One of the problems with government information is that politicians tend to hide the truth or to minimize harsh realities. Since the Socialist government’s economic policy U-turn in 1983, governments have tried to hide necessary measures or reforms behind a veil of euphemistic language. This kind of action “by stealth” may initially be successful, but it does not enhance political awareness among citizens and it also fuels populist feelings at both ends of the political spectrum. Both in his electoral campaign and in his first months in office, President Macron has introduced a new approach that involves clearly and openly addressing problems and necessary reforms. It remains to be seen if, and to what extent, this may enhance citizen’s information and the quality of public debate.
Germany
Empirical analyses of German citizens’ level of political knowledge point to inconsistencies. On the one hand, the supply of independent political information is high. Germany has a diversified media-ownership structure and comparatively pluralistic and decentralized television and radio markets. The internet has become an increasingly important medium for citizens to gather information. Broadcasters, radio stations and newspapers have adapted to the new circumstances by providing a great deal of their services online. Nevertheless, television news programs are the main source of information for most citizens. According to one survey, around half of the population watches a news program every day.

However, a 2014 survey by the Bertelsmann Stiftung indicates a dramatic decline in public interest in politics and in parliamentary debates in particular. Only 25% of the respondents expressed interest in politics and regularly followed debates (compared to about 50% 30 years ago). Furthermore, only about 50% of respondents knew that the grand coalition consists of the CDU/CSU and SPD. In addition, decreasing confidence in parties and politicians is undermining the motivation to stay informed.

Younger people in particular were unable to mention any parliamentary debate they followed with interest. In addition, policy knowledge depends strongly on the social status of a person’s family and their socioeconomic environment. Schools are not able to compensate for socioeconomic deficiencies (Bundestag 2017).

Compared to other European countries such as the United Kingdom, German citizens’ knowledge of politics is substantially lower.
Citations:
Bundestag (2017): Politisches Bewusstsein von Kindern und Jugendlichen sowie ihre politische Beteiligung. Online: https://www.bundestag.de/blob/531098/1b8f7a13a4e384584fefcbcb07e6c28d/wd-9-035-17–pdf-data.pdf

https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/153820/umfrage/allgemeines-vertrauen-in-die-parteien/

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/bundestag-nur-wenige-buerger-interessieren-sich-fuers-parlament-a-1006678.html

http://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/de/themen/aktuelle-meldungen/2014/dezember/bundestagsdebatten-mehr-schlagabtausch-unterm-bundesadler

http://www.infratest-dimap.de/umfragen-analysen/bundesweit/umfragen/aktuell/ wenig-ver¬trauen-in-medien¬¬berichterstattung/
Italy
Existing public opinion studies indicate that only a minority of citizens (about 35%) are significantly interested in politics and that about a similar percentage talks regularly about politics and follows TV programs featuring political debate. A large majority (85%), however, regularly follows the TV news where political news has a significant weight. While data show that the level of sophistication and knowledge about parties, personnel and composition of government is not low, data concerning levels of information about policies were not easily available. They probably vary greatly depending on the policy field.

On certain policies (concerning major economic and fiscal aspects, education, health care, foreign policy), which parties use to define their position, levels of information are fairly high. On other policies, they drop significantly. As Italian politics is fast changing, not very stable and strongly personalized it should be difficult for the citizens to be well informed about the contents of government policymaking. Television – by far the main information source in Italy – can’t give in-depth information.
Citations:
Vincenzo Memoli, How Does Political Knowledge Shape Support for Democracy? Some Research Based on the Italian Case, in Bulletin of Italian Politics, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2011, 79-102
Latvia
There is no local survey data indicating the extent to which citizens are informed of government policymaking decisions. Data from a study on NGO participation in policy planning, commissioned by the government office in 2012, show that NGOs (which are predisposed to participation) are able to: obtain the information and knowledge required to understand the motives, objectives, effects and implications of policy proposals; and make their opinions known through the existing system. NGOs note that information is available to those who seek it out, but is not easily accessible to the general public.

According to USAID’s 2015 CSO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, the government has a positive attitude toward NGOs and NGOs provide significant input to the policymaking process. As of November 2016, there were 21,628 registered NGOs in Latvia. In 2015, NGOs participated in roughly 1,400 working groups. Latvia scored 2.6 and ranked 3 out of 29 countries in the Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, behind Estonia and Poland and equal to the Czech Republic. In 2016, this score dropped to 2.5.

NGOs have a formal consultation mechanism with the government, the NGO-Council of Ministers Cooperation Council. However, NGOs are critical of this mechanism. In 2017, a group of NGOs submitted a letter asking the government to reexamine the budget process from the point of view of transparency, participation and principles of good governance. The NGOs requested a larger role in the budget planning process, similar to that offered to other groups, such as organizations included in the National Tripartite Cooperation Council (NTSP).

Individuals are slow to engage with the political process. According to a 2015 survey, 50% of respondents claim that they would be able to protect their rights and interests through government or municipal institutions, while 38% claimed they could not. However, 54% of respondents stated that they did not believe that they could influence politics through civic engagement. The most popular methods of participation are online commentary (16%); signing petitions (12%); contacting politicians or state officials (11%); boycotting products, services, or organizations (7%); and participating in an NGO (6%). In addition, 60% of respondents stated that referendums were a good method for deciding important political issues. The Enterprise Register estimates that just 25,000 individuals or 1.2% of the population are members of a political party. This is the lowest level of party membership in the European Union.

The rise of social media and the increasing use of the internet have placed new tools at the disposal of citizens wishing to participate in the political process. An e-petition tool, manabalss.lv, lets any group of 10,000 or more citizens place issues on the parliamentary agenda. In 2016, 85 initiatives were launched using this tool, gathering a total of 278,120 signatures (up from 91,891 signatures in 2015). Since its inception, 17 initiatives have proven successful, eight of these during 2016. The parliament is increasingly responsive to these initiatives, with six initiatives from 2016 taken up by the parliament even before the 10,000-signature mark was reached. An initially successful social-media style website that enabled citizens to engage in direct communication with members of parliament was shut down in 2014 due to a lack of financing.
Citations:
1. Latvian Facts (2011), Public Opinion on the NGO Sector in Latvia, p.7, Available at (in Latvian): http://www.nvo.lv/site/uploads/veci e_faili/Zinojums_lv_27_04_2011.pdf, Last assessed: 20.05.2013

2. Baltic News Service (2011), Latvian Political Parties and Associations Estimated to have around 25 thousand Members, Article available at (in Latvian): http://www.delfi.lv/news/national/p olitics/latvija-partijas-un-politis kajas-apvienibas-varetu-but-apmeram -25-tukstosi-cilveku.d?id=39523183, Last assessed: 21.05.2013.

3. State Chancellery (2013) Unpublished Data on NGO involvement in the Mechanisms of the Cabinet Decision-Making Process

4. Latvian Civic Alliance (2014), Overview of the NGO Sector in Latvia 2015. Available at: http://www.nvo.lv/site/attachments/29/04/2016/NVO_PARSKATS-2015-23.04.pdf, Last assessed: 10.11.2017

5. Research center SKDS, Survey on central government’s image, Available (in Latvian): http://petijumi.mk.gov.lv/sites/default/files/file/VKanc_Valsts_parv_klientu_apmerinat_petij.pdf, Last assessed 07.11.2016
Malta
The level of information available for citizens on policies is relatively high and in general easily accessible. The government provides data on policy areas, and if a certain set of data is not available, it can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act. However, the restrictions placed on this act result in information not always being available. Access to contracts between government and private investors remains problematic. The National Statistics Office and the Department of Information regularly make information available to citizens. Some of the more complete reports assessing government policy however come from the European Commission. Competition between media outlets has improved public access to information with leading media outlets hosting their own investigative television series. Although most citizens follow political party-controlled media in their evaluation of policy objectives, political debate is nevertheless widespread and enables citizens to examine different aspects of policy. Policy discussions occur in regular civil society forums and are reported on by the media. However, local opinion surveys are rarely used to evaluate policy proposals. The 2016 Eurobarometer survey found that Maltese respondents do not view local media as truthful when reporting events and that only 28% (the second lowest score) trust the press. Overall, only 15% (the third lowest score) have high trust in the media. The survey also found that 74% of Maltese watch television every day, while only 15% read the written press daily. In addition, 36% look to online social networks to receive national political news.
Citations:
Maltese more likely to trust government than the media study shows, Times of Malta 02/06/17
Standard Eurobarometre 86 Autumn 2016 Media use in the European Union
Slovakia
While the liberal legislation on access to public information has improved the availability of information about policymaking, the population’s overall policy knowledge has suffered from the public disenchantment with politics and the political elite. Fico’s main message to the public continues to limit incentives for citizen participation, as he prefers that the government takes a “caretaker” role, meaning that the government takes care of people’s everyday worries as well as the national interests of Slovakia. However, this kind of paternalism seems to be counterproductive, as his party and the prime minister himself is losing support.
Spain
Although levels of interest in politics have traditionally been low in Spain as compared with other Western European countries, the crisis and the deep changes in the political landscape (with the emergence of Podemos and Ciudadanos) have somewhat changed Spaniards’ attitudes toward the policy process. The public now demands more information, and the motives behind and implications of government policy decisions are now better explained in the media than was the case in the old two-party system.
Research conducted by the official sociological institute CIS demonstrates that attentiveness to political information within Spain has improved. With regard to specific public services and policies, the empirical evidence also shows a recent increase in participation and thus knowledge. For example, a public opinion survey on fiscal policy published by the CIS in 2016 shows that 51.2% of respondents discuss public services often or very often (as compared to 44.2% in 2008).
Citations:
CIS Survey 3191 (Barometer) October 2017
http://www.cis.es/cis/export/sites /default/-Archivos/Marginales/3180_ 3199/3191/es3191mar.pdf
Netherlands
Dutch citizens claim to spend slightly more time than the average European citizen on collecting political information. Nevertheless, the broader public does not seem to be well-informed on a wide range of government policies. This is due not to a lack of information, but many people find political information complicated and/or uninteresting, they often do not pay attention to it. The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Sociaal-Cultureel Planbureau, SCP) found in a 2012 survey that 28% of respondents thought politics was too complicated for them to understand, while 60% thought it was too complex for most others. Verhoeven distinguishes four types of citizens regarding their degree of political involvement: “wait-and-see” citizens (25%), impartial citizens (17%), dependent citizens (23%) and active citizens (35%).

An exceptional case of active citizenship was the Manifesto Focus on Care for the Elderly (“Scherp op ouderenzorg”), which gained more than 100,000 signatures and later became a model for numerous professional stakeholder organizations that wanted to influence the cabinet formation in the second half of 2017. Research by Bovens and Wille found that differences in education levels have become increasingly salient factors when it comes to citizens’ powers in processing policy information, political judgments about the European Union, issues of immigration and integration, and political leadership.

The SCP recently found that Dutch citizens split evenly over the issue of more or less direct influence by citizens. It is the less educated who demand more political influence, whereas higher educated citizens, especially those with tertiary qualifications, do not support the idea. A recent study into citizen attitudes to the European Union, undertaken by TNS/Kantar Nipo and commissioned by the Green-Left party, found that Dutch citizens are caught in a dependence-cum-distrust situation: they instinctively distrust the European Union and would resist transferring more national powers to the EU-level, but simultaneously believe that the European Union should have greater influence over most policy domains.
Citations:
Rob-RFv, Vertrouwen op democratie, Den Haag, 2010.

Verhoeven, Burgers tegen beleid: een analyse van dynamiek in politieke betrokkenheid, dissertatie, UvA, 2009.

M. Bovens, and A. Wille, 2011. Diplomademocratie. Over spanningen tussen meritocratie en democratie, Bert Bakker

Continu Onderzoek Burgerperspectieven, Burgerperspectieven 2014/3 (www.scp.nl, consulted 27 October 2014)

SCP, Continu Onderzoek Burgerperspectieven, Burgerperspectieven 2017|1 (scp.nl., consulted 3 November 2017)

Hugo Borst and Carin Geamers, “Manifest :Scherp op ouderenzorg,” 24 October 2016 (scheropouderenzorg.nl, consulted 3 November 2017)

NRC-Handelsblad, Nederlandse kiezer wil meer en mínder Europe tegelijk, 20 October 2016
 
Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
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Bulgaria
The distribution of knowledge about government policies in Bulgaria is highly uneven. Citizens who are active, especially through participation in non-governmental organizations or grassroots activities, seem to have a very strong grasp of current policies in their sphere of interest. Businesses are also well informed of government policies concerning their field of operation. The general public, however, seems distrustful and uninterested. Citizens’ knowledge of how the government is actually organized and works, the division of competencies and the way decision-making and implementation proceeds is also not high. The limited political interest of many citizens is illustrated by the fact that, despite a change in the electoral code making voting obligatory, voter turnout in the elections in late 2016 and early 2017 remained well below 60%.
Chile
Print-media discussion of policy-reform proposals and government programs is relatively widespread, including discussion of reform proposals and options presented by the ad hoc policy-reform commissions. This has been recently displayed following the proposal of education, pension, fiscal and labor reforms. New forms of public communication regarding government policymaking, in many cases through websites and social networks, are on the rise. Yet a large share of the population is excluded from such discussion due to low levels of education, limited understanding of in-depth analysis and/or its lack of exposure to media other than television. For instance, a study conducted by the National Cultural Council in 2011 (Consejo de la Cultura) indicated that 84% of Chileans of all ages did not have an adequate understanding of content they had read. This observation was confirmed by a 2015 PISA study on the reading comprehension of adolescents. Furthermore, Chile’s oligopolistic media structures distort the political options offered to citizens (e.g., policymaking regarding ethnic minorities and the associated conflicts).

Disinformation and manipulations hinder public-policy discussions. In addition to these deficits in news coverage, citizens in general show low interest in policymaking. Policy interest within the socioeconomic elite is also generally fairly limited, at least as long as public policies do not substantially affect their lifestyle in a nearly completely privatized environment (discussions of fiscal redistribution, as took place during the 2014 fiscal reform, represent a notable exception). Those elements of the middle class that are interested in these debates tend to have access only to the low-quality information sources mentioned above, while members of the socioeconomically lower-class population often know only about the specific public-subsidy systems they use, and lack broader familiarity with public policies and public policymaking.
Citations:
www.uchile.cl%2Fdocumentos%2Festudio-sobre-el-comportamiento-lector-a-nivel-nacional_110593_2_2405.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHhAyEyR819xPkhH1ch5LLl0dIGJQ&sig2=yRzmtJFaAlB-Bf3ltxYgsw

http://radio.uchile.cl/2011/12/14/solo-el-84-de-los-chilenos-entiende-lo-que-lee
Cyprus
Traditionally strong interest and high participation in politics and elections has given way to indifference and increasing rates of abstention. Despite voting being mandatory until mid-2017, abstention rates tripled from 2006 to 2016 (33%). Also, only 20% to 25% of young people are registered to vote. Trust in institutions has sharply declined to very low levels, including even the judiciary.

The extensive disengagement of citizens from institutions and politics is a consequence of the political establishment’s failure to respond to people’s concerns and persistent challenges. Delays in the administration of justice as well as impunity are also serious problems.

The growing political alienation has been compounded by the declining trust in institutions. The government’s conflicts with state controlling/audit officers have fueled confusion or tacit disapproval of government policies and diminished the public will to stay informed on politics. The daily lives of many Cyprians clearly contrast with the government’s accounts of successful fiscal policies, accentuating their alienation.
Citations:
1. Opinion poll on trust in institutions, CYMAR, May 2017, http://cymar.com.cy/en-gb/results/cyprus-institutions/
Greece
Citizens do not really obtain enough information on government policymaking, as the media is strongly partisan or leans toward infotainment, while individual members of parliament rarely discuss substantive policy issues with voters in the electoral districts which they represent.

In Greece, there is a tradition of appealing to government ministers or members of parliament in order to obtain favors, such as facilitating the hiring of a family member in the public sector. After 2010, owing to the depletion of state funds this tradition was somewhat curbed, but the tendency to forge patronage relations has not been adequately tackled. Political parties continue to staff ministerial cabinets, boards of directors of public entities and the lower echelons of public bureaucracy with their supporters where possible. Voters, on the other hand, welcome this practice.

Most citizens are not well informed about government policies. Those who are, however, voice policy opinions in several ways. For example, citizens can participate in the open electronic consultation on new government measures, which each ministry must announce and manage before drafting a bill. On the other hand, there is a strong tradition of organized interest groups voicing opinions on policy matters relevant to their interest areas.

In the period under review, despite some improvements in unemployment and economic growth, the economic crisis continued. However, income tax rates and social security contributions were raised to historically high levels. In this context, political participation in decision-making did not improve, although citizens acquired a more precise view of Greece’s constraints and options.
Citations:
The Ministry of Interior reports turnout in elections. The relevant percentage figures are available at the Ministry’s http://ekloges.ypes.gr/current/v/public/index.html#“cls”:”main,””params”:. Accessed on 03.11.2015.
Hungary
While media freedom and the access to information have declined and the government has led huge disinformation campaigns, the policy knowledge of the Hungarian public has paradoxically increased. In the fields of health care and education, the protracted crisis has provoked social movements and everyday discussions within the larger public. There has been a vivid public discourse about the situation of these sectors and the reasons for their continuous decline with poor services. Political apathy still exists, reinforced by the biased information policies of the government and the lack of transparency characterizing policymaking. However, the everyday situation is so bad in these vital fields that ordinary people discuss policy issues in detail based on direct experiences. Independent policy institutes such as Policy Agenda, Political Capital and Policy Solutions have provided detailed policy knowledge for the public at large, as have many professional NGOs.
Lithuania
Citizens have access to some government information, but the public in large part lacks the civic awareness and policy knowledge that enables an adequate understanding of government policymaking and facilitates participation. In 2011, Transparency International indicated that 44% of citizens surveyed said there was too much information not made publicly available by state and local institutions. Only 34% of the population received information on the activities of municipalities and other local authorities in 2013.
Several initiatives aimed at improving the citizens’ access of information do exist, however. The Public Management Improvement Program is designed to achieve this goal by defining the scope and content of public information to be made accessible, and by centralizing the provision of information about the government’s performance. In addition, the Lithuania 2030 Strategy envisions the implementation of programs devoted to educating responsible citizens. Despite this, Lithuania still faces substantial challenges with regard to increasing its citizens’ participatory capacity. In its review of Lithuania’s open-government programs, the OECD recommended supporting the development of Lithuania’s civil society through capacity-building and collaboration with the activities of the newly established NGO Council, with the ultimate aim of engaging citizens more deeply in government policymaking processes.
Citations:
Reference to the Report of Transparency International: http://transparency.lt/media/filer_public/2013/01/22/informacijos_prieinamumas_lietuvoje.pdf
Reference to the Public Management Improvement Program: http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=418407&p_query=vie%F0ojo%20valdymo%20tobulinimo%20programa&p_tr2=2.
OECD, Public Governance Review Lithuania- Fostering Open and Inclusive Policy Making Key Findings and Recommendations. 2015.
Mexico
Socioeconomically, Mexico is a very internally divided country, which translates into uneven policy knowledge across the population. Due in part to its poverty levels, Mexico has the lowest performing students in the OECD and up to a third of the population has little more than primary education. However, at the other end of the scale, literally millions of Mexicans attend universities, and hundreds of thousands of Mexicans have attended foreign universities. There is, therefore, a marked split between a highly educated Mexico, which is concerned with the finer details of politics and policy, and a less politically and intellectually sophisticated Mexico composed of people who are mostly trying to get by.

Most citizens are not aware of important decisions made by the government. For example, only one-third of Mexicans were aware that the federal government decided to cut spending in 2017. To a great extent, this is explained by a lack of interest in politics. According to the most recent data of the National Survey on Political Culture (ENCUP 2012), 65% of Mexicans have little to no interest in politics and 77% think of government as an instrument of manipulation that benefits only politicians and wealthy people.
Citations:
http://www.parametria.com.mx/carta_parametrica.php?cp=4904
http://www.encup.gob.mx/
Poland
Despite recent attempts to improve access to government information, the average level of knowledge regarding government policy within the Polish public remains limited. Reasons include a tendency toward infotainment in many media outlets, the populist propaganda produced by the government party, and a general detachment from politics among the citizenry. Moreover, political parties, trade unions and most other professional associations do not properly perform their socialization function, and fail to improve their members’ policy knowledge. However, a segment of society has become more interested in politics by strong dissatisfaction with the PiS government’s policies.
Citations:
Cześnik, M., A. Kwiatkowska, R. Markowski (2016): Co Polacy wiedzą o polityce? Niewiele, in: Polityka, April 26.

Żerkowska-Balas, M., M. Cześnik, M. Zaremba (2017): Dynamika wiedza politycznej Polaków, in: Studia Socjologiczne, 226: 7-31.

Szlendak, T. (2017): Die Jugend und die Politik, Polen-Analysen Nr. 205, Bremen (http://www.laender-analysen.de/polen/pdf/PolenAnalysen205.pdf).
Portugal
As noted in previous reports, the bailout heightened citizens’ attention to and interest in policy matters, as did the occurrence of a legislative election in the previous period but one. In the period currently under review, the situation appears to be regressing as the bailout – and ensuing austerity measures – recede from the horizon. In a Eurobarometer survey carried out in May 2017, a total of 50% of respondents in Portugal had a “strong” or “medium” interest in politics, a roughly similar proportion to May 2016. This is the lowest total within the EU-28 with regard to “strong” and “medium” interest in politics, and well below the EU average of 63%. Moreover, the proportion of respondents attesting to no interest in politics was 36% in May 2017, a two-percentage-point increase as compared to May 2016.

This result further strengthens our assessment in previous reports that the Portuguese public’s policy knowledge is limited and unevenly distributed. The factors limiting citizens’ policy knowledge include the insufficient and incomplete explanation of policy by the government, the incomplete and insufficient explanation of policy alternatives by the opposition, a media system that tends to focus more on short-term issues and scandals than on in-depth policy analysis, presentation of policy in terms that tend to be exclusionary for most citizens; and a weak civil society that is unable to socialize and educate citizens on policy issues.
Citations:
Eurobarometer 83 (Annex), May 2015. Available online at:
http://ec.europa.eu/COMMFrontOffice/publicopinion/index.cfm/ResultDoc/download/DocumentKy/66899

Eurobarometer 85 (Annex), May 2016. Available online at:
http://ec.europa.eu/COMMFrontOffice/publicopinion/index.cfm/ResultDoc/download/DocumentKy/74267

Eurobarometer 87 (Annex), May 2017. Available online at: http://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/index.cfm/ResultDoc/download/DocumentKy/79557
Romania
Although the mass protests in 2017 suggest an increase in political interest – particularly when compared with the low voter turnout at the 2016 parliamentary elections – public knowledge of government policy remains low. Most of the population, especially in rural areas and small towns, have no clue as to what government policies are being proposed or implemented. They might know the name of the president, but not the names of the prime minister and individual cabinet members; they know nothing at all about policy, but judge government activity mostly in ideological terms. In order to improve the situation, the Ministry of Education, along with other public authorities, launched in mid-2017 an initiative to provide more space in primary and secondary curricula to issues such as the constitution, legislative process, how the judiciary functions, basic elements of civil and criminal law and the fight against corruption.
Turkey
Except for the Ministry of Finance and the central bank, the government generally does not adequately inform citizens about the content and development of government policy. The head of government, ministers and high government officials highlight success stories and policies, but do not offer follow-up details. While there are no surveys that review how citizens get information on government policy, it is evident that policymaking in Turkey is not transparent or participatory. The government follows a selective and perception management approach to informing citizens about governmental processes. Although citizens in Turkey do reflect critically on politics in general, they often learn of policies only after their implementation has begun. The public’s level of knowledge about government affairs is low, as is the public’s level of satisfaction with the government. However, this has not until recently manifested in public unrest. Even the participatory mechanisms set up to assist government policymaking do not work effectively. Civil society organizations are unable to inform members or the public about ongoing developments. Policy plans are kept largely secret or subject to last-minute changes, and the parliament’s tendency to pass important measures as a part of an omnibus of legislative packages has been increasingly criticized, because it confuses the public.

Social media has become a widespread tool, even for the government in its public relations. Ministries and municipalities use social media frequently, though the information shared by executive officers is limited and propagandistic. Academic studies concluded that people consider social media a mechanism able to influence views and developments in two directions: government can inform its citizens and the people can influence government policies. In other words, social media can facilitate input-output and implementation and feedback in governmental processes. However, the accessibility and reliability of social media is a major obstacle. Only 52% of the population is active on social media. Moreover, the recent restrictions and bans on social media on the one hand and its limited presence on the other make it ineffective. Furthermore, as is the case demonstrated in other countries, social media may inform people, but it also tends to re-affirm biased views and opinions among the public. As a result, social media may underline or even exacerbate polarization tendencies in Turkey.
Citations:
“Orta Vadeli Program açıklandı,” 27.09.2017, http://aa.com.tr/tr/ekonomi/orta-vadeli-program-aciklandi/920725 (accesssed 1 November 2017)
2018 Yılı Para ve Kur Politikası, 5 Aralık 2017, http://www.tcmb.gov.tr/wps/wcm/connect/b8c11e58-25df-4149-a702-1669b6932a36/2018parakur.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID= (accessed 5 December 2017)
“More renewable investments high on Turkey’s energy agenda,” 1 November 2017, https://www.dailysabah.com/energy/2017/11/02/more-renewable-investments-high-on-turkeys-energy-agenda (accesssed 1 November 2017)
Volkan Göçoğlu and Mehmet Devrim Aydın, Kamu Politikası ve Sosyal Medya İlişkisinin Toplumsal Hareketler Bağlamında İncelenmesi, Uluslararası Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi, 2015, 8(37): 880-901.
“64. hükümetin sosyal medya reytingi yüksek” 9 March 2016, http://www.yenisafak.com/ekonomi/64-hukumetin-sosyal-medya-reytingi-yuksek-2430912?p=1 (accesssed 1 November 2017)
Digital in 2017: Global Overview, Ihttps://wearesocial.com/uk/special-reports/digital-in-2017-global-overview (accesssed 1 November 2017)
Mahmut Korkmaz, Sosyal Medya-Kamu Politikaları Etkileşimi: Gezi Parkı Olayları Üzerine Bir Değerlendirme, MA Thesis, Hacettepe University, 2014.
USA
The U.S. public is generally quite uninformed by the standards of political elites. Comparing citizens’ levels of governmental knowledge across political systems is difficult. Nevertheless, as one scholar has written: “The political ignorance of the American voter is one of the best-documented findings in political science.”

Two examples illustrate this: In spring 2013, nearly 90% of the public favored legislation requiring background checks for the purchase of guns. Republicans in Congress blocked Democratic proposals for such a measure. Yet, when asked whose approach to gun control they preferred, the public split almost evenly between President Obama and congressional Republicans. At the same time, roughly 40% of the public believed that Obama’s health care reform had in fact been repealed – an unrealistic prospect given the Democratic control of the presidency and the Senate. Political scientists debate the issue of whether and how a generally uninformed public can discharge the tasks of citizenship effectively. A 2014 Ipsos MORI cross-national survey found U.S. citizens to show the second-highest level of inaccuracy among 14 countries with regard to factual knowledge about a variety of social issues.
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Croatia
Citizens’ policy knowledge in Croatia is limited. Most citizens show only minimal interest in the workings of government and politics. Moreover, the media situation makes it difficult to obtain detailed information on specific government policies.
Slovenia
According to a Eurobarometer survey in May 2017, around 70% of Slovenian citizens think they are well informed about what is going on in the country – though their knowledge of government policymaking is rather limited. While both print and electronic media provide mostly adequate information, certain segments of the population lack media literacy, and most citizens are simply not interested in the details of policymaking. The recurring corruption and political scandals have fostered frustration and disenchantment among a majority of the population. Trust in the national government (21% as compared to a EU28 average of 37%), in the parliament (18% / 36%) and in political parties (9% / 19%) is still very low.
Citations:
European Commission (2017): Standard Eurobarometer 87. Brussels (http://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/index.cfm/Survey/getSurveyDetail/instruments/STANDARD/surveyKy/2142).
OECD (2017), Government at a Glance 2017. Country Fact Sheet Slovenia 2017. Paris (http://www.oecd.org/gov/gov-at-a-glance-2017-slovenia.pdf).
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