Citizens’ Participatory Competence


To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of public policies.
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. Survey results are somewhat equivocal. On the one hand, surveys examining the extent to which citizens are informed of government policymaking indicate that public interest in politics has increased and that young people tend to be more interested in politics today than in 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. On the other hand, there is also evidence suggesting that the level of political knowledge among the younger people, particularly those with a low level of education, is rather low. 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.
Elo, Kimmo ja Rapeli, Lauri. 2008. “Suomalaisten politiikkatietämys”. Helsinki: Oikeusministeriön julkaisuja 2008:6
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.
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. In 2018, the turnout increased even further to 87.2%, which is remarkably high compared to other European countries. 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.
Andersson, Ulrika, Anders Carlander, Elina Lindgren, Maria Oskarson (eds.) (2018), Sprickor i fasaden (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 public policies.
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). There is ongoing discussions about whether the information provided is comprehensible to most citizens, given the technicalities and complexities involved.

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 (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.
Lise Togeby et al., Power and Democracy in Denmark. Conclusions. Århus: Magtudredningen, 2003.

“Voter turnout data for Denmark,” (accessed 8 October 2015)

“Denmark mandates digital postboxes,”,denmark-mandates-digital-postboxes.aspx (accessed 22 October 2014).
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. The recent discussion of the U.N. Global Compact for Migration suggests that issues are often trivialized and manipulated for party political purposes.
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 truer 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 voter 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 four traditional national parties lost a substantial number of votes in the 2010 local government elections, following 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 several 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. In 2006, voter turnout had been 78.7%. In 2010, it declined to 73.5%. In 2014, voter turnout dropped to 66.5%, remaining at the same level in the 2018 elections (67.5%). At 79%, voter turnout in the parliamentary election of 2016 was the lowest recorded since the beginning 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 a lack of interest.
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), Rannsóknir í félagsvísindum X. Reykjavík, Háskólaútgáfan.

Eythórsson, G., and Kowalczyk, M. (2013), “Explaining the low voter turnout in Iceland’s 2010 local government elections,” Samtíð. An Icelandic journal of society and culture, Vol. 1.

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,” Íslenska þjóðfélagið, Vol. 8, No. 1. Accessed 22 December 2018.
In the 2016 general election, electoral turnout dropped to 65.2% from 70.1% in 2011. This fall in turnout came after 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.
Compared to other countries, Israeli citizens show high levels of interest in politics. In the Israeli Democracy Index of 2017 and international comparative indices, Israeli citizens were found to participate widely and be highly interested in politics. Israel also has one of the region’s highest internet-penetration rates (reaching 78.9% in 2017); a lively, pluralistic and independent news media market; and a politically heterogeneous and active civil society. Furthermore, according to the Israeli Democracy Index of 2017, most people (and especially the Jewish population) expressed an unwillingness to compromise democratic standards for better implementation of policy.

That being said, the Israeli public appears to be, to put mildly, “unimpressed” by the government’s capabilities and its levels of transparency. According to two surveys conducted for the Eli Hurvitz Conventions in 2016 and 2018, the public views the functioning of government and its policies, and aspects of transparency and the government’s contact (or connectiveness) with citizens rather critically, ranking these criteria as mostly mediocre at best.

But one should not reach conclusions from this too hastily. However, while the government has made a significant effort to increase its overall transparency (and suffers many shortcomings in this field; see section 9.2), citizens usually rely on the media rather than official (government) information channels for information about public policies.

Israeli citizens can potentially be informed about public policy from a wide range of sources, with the specific source dependent largely on an individual’s personal interests (how interested is he to learn and know about public policy) and personal involvement (does the policy affect him and to what extent, or alternatively how politically active is he and to what extent does his political activism target public policy).
Arlozorov, Meirav. “For the First Time: The Grade the Government Gave Itself in Achieving Goals.” The Marker website. April 6th, 2017 (Hebrew)

Arlozorov, Meirav. “The Professionalist Revolution of the Government of Israel.” The Marker website. February 25th, 2018 (Hebrew)

Data Israel Survey Database of the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research. Source for data of the surveys for the Eli Hurvitz Conventions.

“Freedom of the Press: Israel 2017,” Freedom House, 2017

Hermann, Tamar, The Israeli Democracy Index 2016, The Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem 2016.

Israel. The State Comptroller. “The Government’s Transparency – Actions to Promote the Open Government,” Annual Report, 68(3), 2018, Jerusalem, vol. 1, pp. 5-71. (also available here: (Hebrew)

“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” (Hebrew)

“The Knesset Presents: Advanced Committee Web Portals Now Available,” (Hebrew)

“The Special Committee for the Transparency and Accessibility of Government Information,” The Knesset Website (Hebrew):

The State Comptroller’s official website in English. Numerous reports are in English and Arabic.

The World Bank internet Users Data

“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):

Herman, Tamar and Ella Heller, Tzipy Laza-Shoef, Fadi Omar, “The Israeli Democracy Index 2017. Summary,” 2017,

Tamar Hermann, “Democracy in Crisis? Israeli Survey Respondents Agree to Disagree,” 13.12.2018, Podcast:

“Work Book for the Year of 2018.” Containing links to all work books since 2011 and goals achievement reports since 2017 (reviewing 2016).

Transparency International: “Corruption Perceptions Index 2018,”:
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. 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 European Union member states. A survey in 2017 showed that 35% of all respondents were able to choose the correct answer about the goal-setting institution of the EU from a list of four possible answers.

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 by Kriesi in 2005 showed that citizens are relatively well informed and rational when making decisions in direct-democratic votes. 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 believes claims by right-populist politicians that the EU 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 EU made clear that it would not enter negotiations over the free movement of labor. Notwithstanding these clear messages, in 2017 56% of Swiss citizens thought that the Swiss government could have gotten a better deal in negotiations with the EU. Hence, limited political knowledge on the part of citizens (common to all democracies) and ideological contentions by political elites (trusted as reliable cues by knowledge-poor citizens) may lead to political culs-de-sac in a direct democracy.
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.

Klaus Armingeon and Philipp Lutz 2018: Voting against all odds, Bern: University of Bern, unpublished paper based on MOSAiCH survey 2017.
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.
A substantial amount of information about policies is available in Japan. For instance, ministries regularly use so-called white papers to explain the current parameters and content of policies in many areas, often 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. While it has recovered somewhat since, only 37% of the overall population in 2018 said they trusted the government.
Ross Rowbury, Japan: Low Trust Challenges Forward Momentum, Edelman, 20 March 2018,
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.
Fetzer, Joel S. (2011): Luxembourg as an Immigration Success Story: The Grand Duchy in Pan-European Perspective, Lexington Books.

“Mäßiges Interesse bei den Ausländern.” Luxemburger Wort, 30 July 2017. Accessed 24 Oct 2018.

Fehlen, Fernand (2016): Sprachenpolitik in der Großregion SaarLorLux, in: Wolfgang H. Lorig/Sascha Regolot/Stefan Henn (eds.): Die Grossregion SaarLorLux: Anspruch, Wirklichkeiten, Perspektiven, Springer VS Verlag, pp. 73 – 94.
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 13% of respondents said that most people are better informed about government and politics. The 2007 edition of the survey 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..

From time to time, matters of constitutional importance or public interest are put to voters by way of either 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. The issue sparked a high level of public debate, with a majority opting to retain the existing flag.
International Social Survey Programme 2004: Citizenship:
International Social Survey Programme 2007: Leisure Time and Sports:
New Zealand Election Study, University of Auckland, 2011-12.
Voter turnout: (accessed October 9, 2014).
OECD Better Life Initiative: How is Life in New Zealand? Update from 31 May 2016. (accessed June 30, 2016).
South Korea
The candlelight revolution of 2016 – 2017 revealed a high level of political information and interest among the Korean public. 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 many government policies and 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. Political education in schools and university remains underdeveloped due to immense pressure to do well in exams. The low level of trust in government announcements and in the mainstream media provides fertile ground for the dissemination of rumors. Misinformation and fake news are spreading fast in Korea, as was evident in the online campaigns against refugees from Yemen. The discussion about refugees also revealed that the public generally knows less about international topics or the international context than it does about purely domestic subjects. 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.
Korea Center for Freedom of Information and Transparent Society at
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
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 ten 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.
Ipsos MORI 2011: Knowledge of Politics 2003-2010;
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 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. The robust and successful lobbying efforts of interest groups, including the business community, may have contributed to a weakening of confidence in the political system.

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, resulting in an increase 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.
Most citizens have only a rudimentary knowledge of key public policy issues. A 2013 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 that Canadian women scored 30% lower on average than Canadian men when tested on their knowledge of hard-news items. Like other established democracies, Canada has issues with regard to young voters’ political literacy. A 2017 study by Stockemer and Rocher found that younger people are less politically literate than older people by a margin of 20 to 30 percentage points. 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.
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.
With the increasing accessibility of online information, information on government policies is increasingly available to all Czech citizens. Growing diversity of the media landscape and the Pirate party’s success in the 2017 elections increased pressure for transparency and enhanced citizens’ ability to come to informed decisions. However, media sources are themselves polarized between those presenting simplistic views and/or broad support for Prime Minister Babiš and those providing a more balanced approach or even an apparent anti-Babiš resistance. The political polarization reflected in the media landscape deepens societal divisions. Furthermore, Babiš’s populist rhetoric tends to obfuscate the motives, effects and implications of policies. According to surveys, about 50% of the Czech population has a general interest in politics – a figure that has been more or less stable level over the last ten years.
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. Social networks tend to unfortunately substitute for traditional media in this information process. This contributes to the diffusion of unverified and fake news to such a point that, like in many other countries, the overall information issue becomes a problem for the proper functioning of democracy. There is also a strong bias in favor of petty news to the detriment of more complex informative pieces concerning, for example, health care policy or the fight against poverty.

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. Though at present, Macron’s attempt to “speak truth to the people” has been criticized as a manifestation of arrogance and an indifference to the situation of the poor.
Recent 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. Around half of the population watches a news program every day.

On the other hand, some recent surveys indicate a dramatic decline in public interest in politics and in parliamentary debates in particular. Younger people were disproportionally 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. Studies indicate that populist sentiments are becoming more widespread, while political knowledge and interest in political details is declining. Schools are not able to compensate for those deficiencies.
Bundestag (2017): Politisches Bewusstsein von Kindern und Jugendlichen sowie ihre politische Beteiligung. Online:–pdf-data.pdf

Bertelsmann Stiftung (2018) Populismus-Studie ZD__Studie_Po-pulis¬musbarometer_2018.pdf wenig-ver¬trauen-in-medien¬¬berichterstattung/
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.
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
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,, lets any group of 10,000 or more citizens place issues on the parliamentary agenda. The law has been positively affected by 67.5% of the submitted initiatives. In 2018, a total of 153 initiatives were submitted to the platform and 238,812 people signed the initiatives, up from 91,891 signatures in 2015. The parliament is increasingly responsive to these initiatives.

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.
1. Latvian Facts (2011), Public Opinion on the NGO Sector in Latvia, p.7, Available at (in Latvian): e_faili/Zinojums_lv_27_04_2011.pdf, Last assessed: 02.01.2019

2. Baltic News Service (2011), Latvian Political Parties and Associations Estimated to have around 25 thousand Members, Article available at (in Latvian): olitics/latvija-partijas-un-politis kajas-apvienibas-varetu-but-apmeram -25-tukstosi-cilveku.d?id=39523183, Last assessed: 02.01.2019

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:, Last assessed: 02.01.2019

5. Research center SKDS, Survey on central government’s image, Available at (in Latvian):, Last assessed 02.01.2019

6. ManaBalss (2018), Progress data, Available at:, Last assessed: 02.01.2019
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. The ministries received 402 requests from media organizations and members of the public between 2015 and 2017. Under the Freedom of Information Act, 54% of these were upheld in part or in full. 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 2017 Eurobarometer survey found that Maltese respondents do not view local media as truthful when reporting events, and that only 31% (the second-lowest score) trust the press. Overall, only 14% (the third-lowest score) have a high level of trust in the media. The survey also found that 72% of Maltese watch television every day, while only 14% read the written press daily. In addition, 45% look to online social networks to receive national political news.
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
Standard Eurobarometre 88 Autumn 2017 Media use in the European Union
Over 400 freedom of information requests in three years. Times of Malta 30/11/17
Given the liberal legislation on access to public information and the existing media pluralism, information about policymaking is available to all citizens. However, population’s overall policy knowledge has suffered from the Fico government’s paternalistic approach. Fico’s main message to the citizens was that the government takes care of people’s everyday worries as well as the national interests of Slovakia, so that there is no need for citizens to engage in politics and to deal with policymaking. Social media have also had a negative impact on citizens’ understanding of public policies, as they contribute to the spread of different “alternative” news and conspiracy theories promoted by low-quality media such as Hlavné správy and Zem a Vek. In the wake of the Kuciak and Kušnírová murders, however, the political interest among broad strata of the population has increased, and this has contributed to a growing interest in policymaking as well.
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 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 CIS, a public sociological research center, 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 published by the CIS in 2018 showed that 50.4% of respondents discuss politics often or very often (as compared to 44.2% in 2008).
CIS Survey 3210 April 2018
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 much 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. Another example of civic mobilization involved the mobilization in 2018 of residents in areas plagued by airplane noise associated with Schiphol Airport, and the visible impact activist and lobby groups had on the expansion plan for Schiphol Airport. 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.

There have been a wide and broad range of initiatives across all levels of government in all kinds of citizen engagement projects, from interactive policymaking to citizen-budgets and citizen-juries, youth councils and local referendums, just to name a few. Participation in national elections is relatively high (over 81% in the 2017 parliamentary elections) compared to participation in the last regional and local government elections (53.8% in 2014), and European elections (37.3% in 2014). Public apathy in many participatory options and low levels of knowledge on policies co-exists with widespread discontent with politics and governance.
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

NOS, Organisaties omwonenden van vliegvelden bundelen krachten, 16 May 2018

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

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

NRC-Handelsblad, Nederlandse kiezer wil meer en mínder Europe tegelijk, 20 October 2016
Few citizens are well-informed of public policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of public policies.
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 ÖVP-FPÖ government promised to lower the threshold for securing a plebiscite. However, in practice, the government has shown no interest in fulfilling this promise, as it does not want to be blocked by citizen initiatives. This may have an important impact on decision-making, but it will not change the reality of public knowledge in Austria. Interest in politics is not equally distributed among citizens.
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%.
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.
Traditionally strong interest and high participation in politics and elections has given way to political apathy and indeed alienation. Abstention rates in national elections grew from around 10% in 2006 to 33.5% in 2016. Also, only 20% of young people register on electoral rolls.

Trust in institutions is low, with politicians and political parties at the lowest ever (2.6 out of 10), just below the parliament and the government at 3.7 and 4.2 out of 10, respectively.

While the citizenry’s level of information is very rarely surveyed, disengagement from politics is likely to affect their quest for information on policies. In 2018, the media consistently noted the government’s failure to properly inform the people or explain important policies and decisions.
1. Coop and education issues erode the credibility of the institutions [in Greek], Stockwatch 18 September 2018,
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. Turnout in elections was high until the crisis began and has rapidly declined since. Greeks rarely turn to policymakers (i.e., government ministers and members of parliament) to voice their opinion on policy options. Rather, they mostly rely on interest groups to do so on their behalf.

In Greece, there is a tradition of appealing to government ministers or members of parliament 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, economic stagnation prevailed. 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 and, as usual, citizens were taken by surprise regarding the government’s policy measures.
The Ministry of Interior reports turnout in elections. The relevant percentage figures are available at the Ministry’s
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. The National Audit Office recently began more actively promoting public debates on the state budget and use of tax payer money.
Reference to the Report of Transparency International:
Reference to the Public Management Improvement Program:
OECD, Public Governance Review Lithuania- Fostering Open and Inclusive Policy Making Key Findings and Recommendations. 2015.
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. While better educated Mexicans are well-informed, poor and less educated citizens lack knowledge and interest in politics.
In a recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (INEGI), 44.5% of respondents said that they were content with the quality of government services in 2017. In the latest National Survey on Political Culture (2012), 65% of respondents stated that they had little to no interest in politics, and 77% thought that government was an instrument of manipulation that benefits only politicians and wealthy people. More recent data is offered by the AmericasBarometer (2016/17): In Mexico, support for democracy fell from 70.2% in 2004 to 49.4% in 2017, while only 26.2% of Mexicans trusted the elections and only 13.8% of Mexicans trusted political parties. President Peña Nieto and his government will leave office with historically low approval ratings. Against the background of structural corruption problems and the continuing challenges regarding domestic security, it will be a challenging task for the new government to restore trust in Mexico.
ENCUP (2012). National Survey on Political Culture.
Despite recent attempts to improve access to government information, the average level of knowledge regarding government policy within the Polish public remains limited. Many citizens have little knowledge regarding major political and public institutions, and are unfamiliar with basic political facts. Reasons for this low level of policy knowledge 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 do not work to improve their members’ policy knowledge. However, a segment of society has become more interested in politics due to strong dissatisfaction with the PiS government’s policies.
Cześnik, M., A. Kwiatkowska, R. Markowski (2016): Co Polacy wiedzą o polityce? Niewiele, in: Polityka, April 26.

Gyárfášova, O., C. Molnár, P. Krekó, F.Pazderski, V.Wessenauer (2018): Youth, Politics, Democracy: Public Opinion Research in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Warsaw: Instytut Spraw Publycznych.

Tworzecki, H., R. Markowski (2014): Knowledge and Partisan Bias: An Uneasy Relationship, in: East European Politics and Societies and Cultures 28(4): 836-862.

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 (
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 March 2017, a total of 52% of respondents in Portugal had a “strong” or “medium” interest in politics, a roughly similar proportion to 2017 and 2016. This is the third lowest total within the EU-28 with regard to “strong” and “medium” interest in politics, above only Spain and France, and well below the EU average of 62%. Moreover, the proportion of respondents attesting to no interest in politics was 35%.

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.
Eurobarometer 87 (Annex), May 2017. Available online at:

Eurobarometer 89 (Annex), March 2018. Available online at:
Although the mass protests in 2017 and 2018 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.
With regards to how government works and the complexity of the issues addressed by policies and policymaking, the U.S. public is generally quite uninformed. Comparing citizens’ levels of governmental knowledge across political systems is difficult. 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. In recent years, observers have become most concerned about the strength of “partisan motivated reasoning” on the part of ordinary citizens. During the Trump presidency, an unprecedented series of scandals, failures and deviations from consensus policies have barely moved public approval of Trump, which has held almost constant at around 40% throughout his first two years in office.
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.
In 2018, political apathy has been reinforced by the failure of the democratic opposition in the 2018 elections, but also by the government’s biased information policies and the lack of transparency characterizing policymaking. However, the everyday situation in vital fields such as education and health care is so bad 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.
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. The latest Eurobarometer survey from 2018 reveals that trust in the national government (17%, compared to an EU28 average of 34%), the parliament (20%, compared to an EU28 average of 34%), political parties (11%, compared to an EU28 average of 19%) and public administration (40%, compared to an EU28 average of 50%) remains very low.
European Commission (2017): Standard Eurobarometer 87. Brussels (

European Commission (2018): Standard Eurobarometer 89. Brussels (
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. Although, public opinion polls rarely provide substantial results, it can be assumed that public knowledge about government affairs is low, in contrast to public satisfaction with the government. While public dissatisfaction with the justice and education systems is increasing, there are a few civil society organizations that mostly satisfactorily inform the public about ongoing developments related to the health care, education and security sectors. Policy plans are kept largely secret or are 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. Public institution’s annual activity reports only provide data about policy achievements. A recent report on governance in Istanbul’s municipalities indicated that municipalities do not provide stakeholders with sufficient information on decision-making processes.

In the aftermath of the early presidential and parliamentary elections in June 2018, the pluralistic structure of Turkey’s media was fatally undermined by the sale of Doğan Media, the flagship of Turkey’s media, to Demirören media, a pro-government media conglomerate in 2018. Media freedoms deteriorated significantly after the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016. Numerous journalists have been imprisoned without indictment, which has had an intimidating effect on other journalists. Consequently, it is difficult for citizens to find objective and substantive information on government policies and decision-making.

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. Some 54% of the population has access to the internet and 70% of the population expresses optimism with regard to digital transformation. 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.
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“More renewable investments high on Turkey’s energy agenda,” 1 November 2017, (accesssed 1 November 2017)
Ömer Zeybek, “Yaşam Memnuniyeti 2017,”, (accesssed 27 Octoberr 2018)
Bilal Alat, “Türkiye’de İl Belediye Web Sitelerinin İşlevselliği Üzerine Bir Araştırma,” Fırat Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 28(1), 2018: 93-114.
Belediye Yönetişim Karnesi,, (accesssed 27 October 2018)
Digital in 2018: Global Overview, (accesssed 1 November 2018)
Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
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