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 rates are still high in Finland. Nevertheless, while some issues are widely debated in the media and attract broad general attention, other less media-friendly or stimulating issues pass largely unnoticed.
The public’s evaluative and participatory competencies constitute a weak spot. Survey results suggest that the level of political knowledge among young people, particularly those with a low level of education, is rather low. At the same time, evidence suggests that the degree of interest and participation varies significantly across policy issues and levels of authority. Results indicate, for instance, that young cohorts tend to be familiar with supranational politics, while women are familiar with matters close to people’s everyday lives. Recently, the extensive use and consumption of social media for the purposes of political and everyday communication has been said to enhance the public’s political knowledge while also endangering the production of independent and broad-based information.

Finnish people have high levels of trust in the media. Nevertheless, the country is not immune to the fragmenting news landscape. Among certain parts of the population, people trust social media influencers more than they do the mainstream media (Heikkilä 2020).

During the pandemic, the government has persistently explained its policy measures and why it was choosing specific measures. This has included communication describing the crisis assessments underlying specific policy measures and timelines. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has also provided information for the general public. Information has been communicated via press conferences, social media posts, websites and press releases.

As with other areas of the government’s crisis management, the communication of the measures taken has in a sense been a victim of its own success. The repeated press conferences, and the communication of detailed and complex information related to COVID-19, have increased the population’s psychological distress. The government has never been satisfied with the population’s reactions and behavior. Consequently, it has intensified its communications, adopting an increasingly paternalistic tone in communicating its measures.
Elo, Kimmo ja Rapeli, Lauri. 2008. “Suomalaisten politiikkatietämys.” Helsinki: Oikeusministeriön julkaisuja 2008:6
Rapeli, Lauri. 2014. “Comparing Local, National and EU Knowledge: The Ignorant Public Reassessed.” Scandinavian Political Studies 37: 428-446.

Heikkilä, Melissa, 2020. Influencer to fight Corona Virus. Accessed, 28.12. 2020.
In the 2016 general election, electoral turnout dropped to 65.2% from 70.1% in the previous election in 2011. This fall in turnout came after economic recovery and strong rates of economic growth. In 2020, turnout declined again to 62.9% (down 2.2%) despite the election being held on a Saturday for the first time since 1918.

The proportion of Irish respondents claiming to have heard of various European institutions is consistently higher than the EU average, in part explaining why Irish support for the European Union remains among the highest in the European Union. Brexit reinforced existing trends in this regard. 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, and media coverage of politics impartial and generally very fair.
The Norwegian public is generally attentive, and well-informed about government policies, measures and operations, and citizens tend to trust decision-makers. This is attributable to the country’s small size and high levels of social capital, as well as 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 is generally politically engaged. 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 (Valmyndigheten, 2021). 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 et al., 2018: Oscarsson, 2007; Oscarsson, and Holmberg, 2014).
Andersson, Ulrika, Anders Carlander, Elina Lindgren, Maria Oskarson. (eds.) 2018. ”Sprickor i Fasaden.” Gothenburg: The SOM Institute.

Oscarsson, Henrik. 2007. ”A Matter of Fact? Knowledge Effects on the Vote in Swedish General Elections, 1985-2002.” Scandinavian Political Studies, 30:301-322.

Oscarsson, Henrik and Sören Holmberg. 2014. ”Svenska väljare.” Stockholm: Wolters Kluwer.

Valmyndigheten. 2021. “Valresultat.”
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, easily accessible across the country. 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 (MitID). 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 (84.5% in the 2019 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 (66.08% in 2019). European Parliament elections tend to be perceived as second order elections. The issues most important for voters, including healthcare, social services, pensions and education, are largely national issues.
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).
Extensive media consumption and high internet penetration suggest that citizens may be well informed on major policy topics. Besides news media, the websites of ministries and executive state agencies inform citizens about forthcoming policy changes (e.g., the reform of second-pillar pension funds). At the same time, extensive use of social media by various advocacy groups and radical social movements likely increases the dissemination of biased information and fake news. The recent discussions on foreign and domestic policy issues indicate that information is often trivialized and manipulated for political purposes. A few recent surveys have suggested that a significant proportion of citizens act ad hoc or overestimate their awareness (Turu-Uuringute AS 2020). For example, 41% of respondents in a representative opinion poll (Turu-Uuringute AS 2019) stated that they planned to withdraw their money from pension funds when allowed after the forthcoming pension reform, despite 77% of respondents stating that they would have no idea what to do with the money.
Turu-Uuringute AS 2020. COVID-19 teemaline küsitlus, dets. 2020.
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 of 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 among citizens and Iceland’s distance from other countries contribute to the domestic preoccupation of Icelandic politics.

The immediate response to the 2008 economic collapse demonstrates an ability on the part of some voters to quickly adapt to changed circumstances. In voter surveys during 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. This trend was accentuated by the publication of the scathing Special Investigation Committee report in 2010. 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 a new constitution secured a turnout of 49% of the electorate, despite the negative attitude of some of Iceland’s 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. 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, as is the case in many Western democracies. Most current electoral research indicates that a significant proportion of young people do not vote due to a lack of interest. In the parliamentary elections in 2017 (81.2%) and 2021 (80.1%), voter turnout exceeded 80% again.
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 4 February 2022.
Compared to other countries, Israeli citizens show high levels of interest in politics and political participation. In the Israeli Democracy Index published by the Israel Democracy Institute, the Political Participation Index published by the Economist, and other 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 (according to one source, reaching 82% as of January 2019); a lively, pluralistic and independent news media market; and a politically heterogeneous and active civil society.

That being said, the Israeli public appears to be, to put mildly, “unimpressed” by the government’s capabilities and its levels of transparency. The Israeli Democracy Index 2020 recorded the lowest point in a decade in the public’s trust in public institutions and government officials (particularly in the Knesset and the Supreme Court), as well as substantial erosion in the public’s sense of social solidarity (Israel Democracy Index 2020). Indeed, in 2021, the Israeli public reported the highest level of trust in the army, and the lowest level of trust in government, parliament and political parties (Israel Democracy Index 2021).

Citizens usually rely on the media rather than official (government) information channels for information about public policies. Indeed, according to several surveys published in January 2019 prior to the first round of elections in April 2019, over 50% of all respondents use traditional news media outlets to access political information, while about 20% of all respondents use social media.
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.

Digital 2019: Israel. A slideshow about Israel’s state of telecommunications, by We Are Social and Hootsuite, thinktanks. Retrieved from

“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,

Herman, Tamar and Ella Heller, Tzipy Laza-Shoef, Fadi Omar. The Israeli Democracy Index 2018. Israel: The Israel Democracy Institute, 2018. Retrieved from (for the Hebrew version:

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,”:

Tamar Hermann, 2021. “The Israeli Democracy Index”;

The Israel Democracy Institute, 2021, ” IDI’s 2020 Democracy Index: Public Trust, Social Solidarity and Democracy in Danger”;
In Luxembourg, people can play an active part in democratic life of the country by participating in individual activities (voting, public petitions), or by getting involved in civic associations. Institutions encourage people to take part in public decision-making.

For example, in the 2021 State of the Nation address, the prime minister announced the creation of a Citizen’s Council on Climate (composed of a hundred representative members of the population), with the goal of giving people the opportunity to debate climate issues alongside the experts. The starting point for discussions will be the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan. Xavier Bettel said: “More than ever, we need a social consensus on how we want to tackle the climate crisis together.”

Citizen’ can submit petitions (written in French, German or Luxembourgish) on the website of the Chamber of Deputies. To ensure acceptance, at least 4,500 signatures are required. Thereafter, the petition will be discussed in a public debate, broadcast on ChamberTV and streamed on the parliament website. In 2021, 285 public petitions were submitted to the Chamber of Deputies, one of which sought to promote a referendum on constitutional matters. As the total number of valid signatures (7,413) was much less than 25,000 signatures required, the proposal to bring the revision of Chapter VI of Luxembourg’s constitution to a public vote was not successful.

Other examples of people taking action in Luxembourg include protests over the lack of affordable housing, with several demonstrations held in Esch-sur-Alzette and Luxembourg City in 2020 and 2021, as well as protests bringing together several thousand participants held by Luxembourg’s branch of the global environmental movement “Youth for climate,” inspired by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, which carried out climate protests in 2020 and 2021.

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.
“Press release by the prime minister, Minister of State, on the result of the signature collection for a referendum on the proposal to revise Chapter VI of the Constitution.” Official elections website of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (5 January 2022). ml. Accessed 14 January 2022.

“State of the Nation 2021.” Xavier Bettel (12 October 2021). en%2Bactualites%2Btoutes_actualites%2Bdiscours%2B2021%2B10-octobre%2B12-etat-de- la-nation.html. Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Waves of demonstrations for housing in Luxembourg.” DiEM 25 (02.10.2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Le Plan national intégré en matière d’énergie et de climat (PNEC).” Le Gouvernrment du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg (2020). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Development of public spaces through civic engagement – Placemaking.” Ville de Luxembourg (2021).

“The petition website of the Parliament.” Chambre des Députés. Accessed 14 January 2022.

XR Luxembourg. Accessed 14 January 2022.
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. In cases where the public feels insufficiently informed, it votes against change. The power of a “no” heuristics was demonstrated by the 2017 vote one tax reform in which 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” cited their lack of knowledge as a reason for voting against the proposal. The intensity of a campaign is another key factor in the extent to which the public is informed of a bill’s content and in explaining their voting behavior on the relevant 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. A survey in 2017 showed that 35% of all respondents were able to choose the correct answer about the goal-setting institution of the European Union from a list of four possible answers.

Stucki et al. (2018) show that voters are willing and able to actively seek information in making their decision. 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. An analysis by Colombo (2016) found that Swiss citizens have considerable political knowledge and – in particular – are able to logically explain their vote choice. However, the extent and depth of their political sophistication remain unclear.

There are limitations to cue-taking as an effective means of political decision-making. For example, since 2014, a large share of citizens believes claims by right-wing 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. Notwithstanding these clear messages, in 2017, 56% of Swiss citizens thought that the Swiss government could have brokered a better deal in negotiations with the European Union. 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 dead ends in a direct democracy.

With regard to subjective knowledge, about 28% of Swiss citizens claim to be very or quite interested in politics, as well as being at least quite able to take an active political role in a political party and to be at least quite confident in their own ability to participate in politics. This percentage is similar to that found in neighboring Germany (31%) and Austria (27%), but clearly more than that seen in France (16%) or Italy (16%) (European Social Survey 2018).
ARMINGEON, Klaus and Philipp Lutz 2022: Citizens’ response to a non-responsive government: The Case of the Swiss Initiative on Mass Immigration, unpublished manuscript

Colombo C (2016) Partisan, not Ignorant – Citizens’ Use of Arguments and Justifications in Direct Democracy. Florence: Unpublished PhD thesis.

Colombo C (2018) Justifications and Citizen Competence in Direct Democracy: A Multilevel Analysis. British Journal of Political Science 48(3): 787-806.

De Angelis A, Colombo C and Morisi D (2020) Taking cues from the government: heuristic versus systematic processing in a constitutional referendum. West European Politics 43(4): 845-868.

European Social Survey 2018, 9th wave, published November 2019
KRIESI, Hanspeter 2005a: Argument-Based Strategies in Direct-Democratic Votes: The Swiss Experience, Acta Politica 40: 299-316.

KRIESI; Hanspeter 2005b: Direct-Democratic Choice. The Swiss Experience. Lanham: Rowmann & Littlefield.

Morisi D, Colombo C and De Angelis A (2019) Who is afraid of a change? Ideological differences in support for the status quo in direct democracy. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties. DOI: 10.1080/17457289.2019.1698048. 1-20.

VOTO 2017: VOTO-Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 12. Februar 2017, Lausanne, Aarau, Luzern: FORS et al..

Stucki, I., Pleger, L., & Sager, F. (2018). “The making of the informed voter: A split-ballot survey on the use of scientific evidence in direct-democratic campaigns,” Swiss Political Science Review: 24(2): 115–139. doi:
There are few sources of data that allow one to assess the citizenry’s level of information with precision. Furthermore, the web of overlapping competencies between different layers of government reduces accountability. Finally, the trend toward less and less coherent communication, as described under “Policy Communication,” makes it increasingly difficult for citizens to distinguish between true and fake news. Nonetheless, it is quite clear that, over the last year, the population has become considerably more active in demanding specific policies from the various governments in Belgium.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the decisions made by the government in the National Security Council and then the consultation committee were announced and justified in press conferences that included representatives of all relevant country entities, with the goal of projecting unity. While this exercise was justified when there were big announcements to be made that would affect whole areas of life, it became less and less justified when more marginal decisions were taken, drawing criticism from some experts and feeding the perception that these events had become a TV show rather than an instrument of transparency and information.
Recent empirical analyses indicate a decline in public interest in politics and parliamentary debates in Germany. Younger cohorts in particular were unable to mention any parliamentary debate they had followed with interest (Bundestag 2017). Media use is intense among the younger age groups, but has shifted away from the consumption of information to that of entertainment, which means that an increasing share of the public remains relatively uninformed about politics. Schools have been unable to compensate for those deficiencies. In addition, policy knowledge correlates strongly with family social status and the socioeconomic environment. Recent studies indicate that the rise of populist sentiments has been reversed, but that there is a risk of further right-wing radicalization (Vehrkamp and Merkel 2020). Ecological movements like “Fridays for Future” have increased the younger generation’s political awareness on climate policies. Comparative research indicates that policy knowledge in Germany remains at a level comparable to that found in Scandinavian countries (Jensen and Zohlnhöfer 2020).
Bundestag (2017): Politisches Bewusstsein von Kindern und Jugendlichen sowie ihre politische Beteiligung. Online:–pdf-data.pdf

Jensen, Carsten and Reimut Zohlnhöfer (2020): Policy knowledge among ‘elite citizens,’ European Policy Analysis 6 (1), 10-22.

Vehrkamp, Robert and Wolfgang Merkel (2020): Populismusbarometer 2020, Zukunft der Demokratie, 02.2020, BertelsmannStiftung.
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, only 42% of participating Japanese citizens said in 2020 that they trusted the government; only Russia exhibited a lower score among the 26 countries covered. Voter apathy also reflects the public’s lacking confidence in the government to bring about changes. The voting turnout in the most recent lower house election in November 2021 was barely 56%, the third lowest in the postwar history.
Edelman, 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer – Japan,

Japan’s Election Turnout Third Lowest in Postwar Era,, 2 November 2021,
New Zealand
Many New Zealanders appear to appear to be relatively well informed about political issues. According to the 2017 New Zealand Election Study (the latest NZES survey available), 33% of respondents were “very interested” in politics, 49% “somewhat interested.” Roughly two-thirds of citizens make use of the news media to inform themselves about political issues. Asked how often they had followed election news on TVNZ 1, 65% of respondents replied either “often” or “sometimes.” The figure is similar for online sources, with 62% of respondents declaring that they had turned to the internet at least once to find information about the 2017 election. The figures for the 2017 NZES also reveal that political interest and knowledge had increased since 2014.

Early data from the NZES study of the 2020 election shows that 81% of respondents were very or somewhat interested; however, given that this question is likely strongly affected by response rates, we need to be cautious in using it as an outcome variable ( However, the voter turnout rate in the 2020 election (as a percentage of total enrolled citizens) was the highest since 1999 at 81.5% (Elections NZ).

The extent of citizens’ participation in public consultation processes depends heavily on the issue in question. For example, the Smoke-free Environment (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill received more than 15,600 public submissions, while the recent draft dealing with history curriculum in schools received only 488 submissions (Ministry of Education 2021). The bill to ban conversion therapy also triggered strong interest, with a record-breaking 106,700 submissions made to parliament’s Justice Committee during the four-week submission window, compared to 40,000 received on the End of Life Choice Bill, which had held the previous record. The Marriage Amendment Bill, which made same-sex marriage legal in 2013, received 21,500 submissions. These issues were also supported by strong and widespread social media campaigns that are believed to have mobilized public input (Stuff 2021).
Llections New Zealand,

Ministry of Education (2021) Aotearoa New Zealand’s histories: Findings from the public engagement
on the draft curriculum content.

New Zealand Election Study 2017 (

New Zealand Election Study, nd,

Stuff (2021) ber-of-submissions-on-law-proposing-to-ban-conversion-therapy
South Korea
South Korea’s civil society is one of the most vibrant in Pacific Asia. Civil society organizations (CSOs) and engaged citizens are active in monitoring and holding accountable the public and private sectors. The 2016-2017 candlelight protests which ultimately led to the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, as well as the 2019 protests both for and against former Minister of Justice Cho Guk, revealed a high level of political information and interest among the Korean public. In particular, many young people and students participated in these protests. Younger generations are also responsible for the bulk of the more than 1 million petitions that have been filed with the Blue House since the presidential petition system was launched in 2017. The Korean public, civil society organizations and the media are vigilant and ready to protest top-level abuses of power effectively. The #MeToo movement has also brought many abuse-of-power cases to light.

Nevertheless, many citizens remain poorly informed about the details of some government policies. Political discussions are often conducted emotionally, and are focused on personalities rather than policy. 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 immense pressure to do well on exams in schools and at universities has left political education and discussions underdeveloped. The low level of trust in government announcements and in the mainstream media provides fertile ground for the dissemination of rumors, including via proliferating channels of fake and/or unverified news. Misinformation spreads quickly in Korea, as was evident in the online campaigns against refugees from Yemen in 2018. 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.

CSOs are diversified and cover the whole range of the society from labor unions to human rights groups and environmental NGOs. Access by CSOs to formal state decision-making processes often depends on their loyalty to the government. CSO staffers have often gone on to government jobs, particularly in administrations led by progressive presidents, for instance under the Moon government. Unfortunately, the cooptation of CSOs by governments tends to undermine their independence, as personal loyalty often comes to matter more than ideals. Despite successes, the overall level of social trust remains relatively low, and there is a general expectation that it is the government’s role to fix problems.
Cho, Min-jung. ‘현대판 신문고’ 靑 국민청원 4년…104만개 청원에 2억명 동의.. Yonhap News, August 17, 2021.
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. Throughout the pandemic, the government went to considerable lengths to keep the public informed. Public information campaigns involved frequent advertisements explaining through simple messages (e.g., “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”) what the government expected, and both ministers and scientific advisers gave frequent briefings – daily when the pandemic was at its worst.

The share of those claiming knowledge of politics rose during the 2010s by about 10 percentage points, indicating a subjectively better understanding of politics by citizens in the United Kingdom. A 2018 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. Significant efforts were made to track opinion on matters relating to the pandemic and given airtime in political programs aired on terrestrial channels.

Nevertheless, a telling figure is that the proportion of citizens voting in certain television talent competitions is higher than in many national elections.
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 and in the country’s political class.
Most Canadian citizens have only a moderate level of knowledge of public policy issues but many are well-informed on a select few issues such as the environment. Roughly three-quarters of Canadians say they follow the news (Howe, 2010: 44). From a comparative perspective with other advanced-industrialized democracies, Canadians are in the middle of the pack on measures of political attentiveness (Howe, 2010:44). A significant issue is the poor political knowledge of younger Canadians (18-34), including knowledge of policy issues, in comparison to Canadians 35 years of age or more, which has been linked to lower voter turnout in this young age group (Stockemer and Rocher, 2017).
Paul Howe, Citizens Adrift: The Democratic Disengagement of Young Canadians. Vancouver: UBC, 2010.

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 available to all Czech citizens. According to surveys, however, only half of the Czech population has a general interest in politics, a share that has remained more or less stable over the last 10 years. Moreover, 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 demonstrating open opposition to Babiš. The political polarization reflected in the media landscape has deepened societal divisions.
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 the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Information is often provided on a certain topic once a group of citizens or political activists have succeeded in attracting media attention. Unfortunately, social networks tend to have substituted for traditional media in this information process. This contributes to the diffusion of unverified and fake news to such a point that, as in many 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 or scandals to the detriment of more complex informative pieces concerning, for example, healthcare policy or the fight against poverty.
One of the problems with government information is that politicians tend to hide the truth or minimize harsh realities. This kind of action “by stealth” may initially be successful, but it does not enhance political awareness among citizens, and subsequently fuels populist feelings at both ends of the political spectrum as people lose trust in politics. During his electoral campaign and in his first months in office, President Macron introduced a new approach by “speaking truth to people.” In practice, this triggered harsh criticism, and was perceived by many as a manifestation of technocratic arrogance and indifference to the situation of the poor. In January 2019, in reaction to the Yellow Vest riots, Macron launched a vast operation organizing 10,000 local citizen debates paired with other (e.g., online) possibilities for citizens to express themselves (Grand débat national). Nearly 2 million citizens contributed to this debate. This pedagogic exercise worked, since the executive was able to end the riots and recover a modicum of popular consensus. Another initiative was the launch of a Citizen’s Convention on Climate Policy, an assembly of 150 citizens chosen by random and installed in October 2019, tasked with discussing measures that the country might implement to address climate change. However, the government transposed only a part of the 149 propositions presented by the convention in June 2020, and the fundamental question regarding the compatibility of such participatory elements with the principles of representative democracy remains unanswered. Furthermore, the convention might suspected of being another personal strategy by the president enabling him to overcome the Yellow Vest protests. The idea of complementary forms of citizen consultation is interesting and could be explored further, but it should be placed on a more regular basis, and not be seen as a discretionary instrument used at the whim of the government or serving president.
Finally, governmental and bureaucratic methods have changed little, aside from the use of a more pedagogic approach during the pandemic. A traditional feature of French politics has also persisted: much of the public prefers protest to participatory methods.
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 are not easily available. They probably vary greatly depending on the policy field.

In certain areas used by parties to define their positions (especially major economic and fiscal issues, education, healthcare, immigration and foreign policy), levels of information are fairly high. On other policies, the amount knowledge drops significantly. As Italian politics are fast-moving, unstable and strongly personalized, it is naturally difficult for citizens to be well informed about the contents of government policymaking. Television – by far the most significant information source in Italy – does not provide in-depth information. Over the last two years, attention to COVID-19 specific policies has been rather high.
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 specifically indicating the extent to which citizens are informed of government policymaking decisions. 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. However, that same information may not be made available to the general public.

According to USAID’s 2019 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. Latvia scored 2.6 and its CSO sustainability was described as “enhanced.”

A 2015 Democracy Audit, conducted by researchers at the University of Latvia, noted that overall civic activism in Latvia can be described as poor. The report found that citizens are passive, skeptical, and slow to engage with the political process, and are increasingly alienated from democratic institutions and processes.

The rise of social media and the increasing use of the internet has 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. In addition, many state institutions are actively using social media channels for communication with the general public.
1. Rozenvalds, J. (2015) How Democratic is Latvia? Audit of Democracy 2005-2014, Available at:, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.

2. Latvian Civic Alliance (2021), Public Participation in the Decision-Making Process (2021). Available at:, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.

3. ManaBalss (2021), Progress data, Available at:, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.
A relatively large amount of policy information is made available to citizens, and this information is in general easily accessible. There are several channels to access this data. There is a Freedom of Information, but restrictions mean that information requested is not always available. Access to contracts between government and private investors remains problematic. In 2021, 30 government ministries and entities appealed against a decision by the information and data protection commissioner, which ordered the disclosure of information on public expenditure requested by the news media. The data protection commissioner has stated that “the law allowing public access needs to be amended to remove hurdles.” Information is available through a number of mediums. Parliamentary debates are televised, information leaflets are distributed door to door, and competition between media outlets has improved public access to information with leading media outlets hosting their own investigative television series. The National Statistics Office and the Department of Information regularly make information available to citizens, as do the ombudsman and the National Audit Office. Some of the more complete reports assessing government policy however come from the European Commission. Unfortunately, many use social media to gain information, a highly unreliable medium. A 2019 European Commission paper indicates that percentage of individuals using the internet to interact with government authorities is below the EU average. However, the share of those using it to obtain information is close to the EU average. Consultation documents uploaded on government websites have improved the amount of information available in a highly digitized society.
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
Times of Malta 04/09/2019 Central link trees to remain for a little while longer
European Commission Digital Government Fact sheet 2019 Malta
European Commission Standard Eurobarometer 91 June 2019
Reporters without borders 09/02/22 Malta Press freedom groups raise concerns over unprecedented obstructions to freedom of information
Times of Malta 25/05/21 Freedom of information law needs to be revised
Lovin Malta 14/06/2021 Information blackout on St Vincent de Paul contract as three FOI requests get rejected
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 increased, and this contributed to a growing interest in policymaking as well. The interest in environmental issues and the fight against climate change has also risen considerably. More recently, frustration with the quibbling within the center-right government has led once again to an increase in political apathy.
Although levels of interest in politics have traditionally been low in Spain as compared with other Western European countries, 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 (around 40% of the population indicated that they were very or quite interested in politics at the end of 2021). While levels of political knowledge in Spain are generally low, there are also important socioeconomic and gender differences in levels of knowledge. Knowledge is higher among those with higher levels of education, greater socioeconomic and cognitive resources, and, in particular, among men.

During the pandemic, Spanish citizens showed a high degree of public concern about the dissemination of false information. According to the 2020 Digital News Report, only 36% of Spanish users trust media news, the lowest level since 2015. Trust in information disseminated via social networks (23%) or internet search engines (32%) is also declining. Only 24% of young people trust social networks, 13 percentage points 2019’s level, while 63% say they are concerned about not knowing what is true or false on the internet. The majority of Spanish citizens (49%) believe that the government, national politicians and parties are the main sources of disinformation.
Villena-Alarcón, E.; Caballero-Galeote, L. (2020), COVID-19 Media Coverage on Spanish Public TV –

Digital news report España (2020),

Mónica Ferrín, Marta Fraile Maldonado (2014): La medición del conocimiento político en Españaproblemas y consecuencias para el caso de las diferencias de género. Revista de Investigaciones Sociológicas, Vol. 147. Available at:
Political knowledge depends on levels of trust in politics and patterns of government-enabled and either invited or spontaneous participation. Voter turnout rates in national elections have been stable between 75% and 80% for some time. Turnout rates in European elections are half this level, while for local and provincial elections, they vary between 55% and 60%. Recent political science research has found that a broad majority of voters believe that the March 2021 elections – during the pandemic – were conducted honestly. But respondents expressed doubts as to the reliability of voting by proxy and mail, which were allowed on a larger scale than usual because of coronavirus measures.

Patterns of participation are stable: more than half of the adult population is non-active; 15% of people occasionally write an email to their local government; 14% are politically active on the neighborhood level; 6% are locally active and have many contacts with local government and politicians; and 7% are “all-rounders” who are both politically and societally active. Since the rise of neoliberal politics, the government has shifted participatory opportunities from the beginning to the end of the policy cycle: from stimulating political participation as an institutionalized and legitimate opportunity for citizens to influence policymaking to regarding societal participation as individual citizens’ self-determined responsibility to co-produce policy implementation and public service delivery. This shift is visible even in citizens’ appreciation of the judiciary: instead of relying on courts and judges, they are increasingly turning to do-it-yourself justice through mediation procedures.

Dutch citizens claim to spend slightly more time than the average European citizen on collecting political information. But many people find political information uninteresting or too complicated; if not for themselves, then for others. Younger people (15-30 yrs.) have begun to avoid political news; if politically interested, they seek information through social media. The broader public does not seem to be well-informed on a wide range of government policies; particularly in the area of international politics, the Dutch public’s knowledge is alarmingly low. This may explain why on the EU, Dutch citizens are caught in a dependence-cum-distrust paradox: 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.

In addition to disinterest and an increasing knowledge gap between educational levels, systematic (foreign- and nationally led) efforts to disseminate conspiracy theories and disinformation and create “fake news,” even by members of parliament, have had a polarizing effect on knowledge levels regarding political issues and decision-making. The coronavirus crisis has increased awareness of the impact of government on citizens’ daily lives. After a rally-around-the-flag surge, trust in government plummeted as the coronavirus crisis lingered on; exacerbated by public policy failures such as the child benefits scandal, delayed and unfair compensation for earthquake damages in the gas-exploiting areas of Groningen, delays and nondecisions related to the huge levels of nitrogen emissions, and increasingly visible inequality. Ironically, the fact that previous levels of trust were so high has led to disappointment, and this in turn to high levels of distrust, and even disgust and hatred of politics.

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 (through binding referendums), whereas higher educated citizens, especially those with tertiary qualifications, have turned against the idea of referendums, binding or advisory. There has been a wide and broad range of initiatives across all levels of government in all kinds of citizen engagement projects; recently, highly regarded advisory bodies have recommended the use of citizen forums on a national scale for thorny problems like energy transition and (health) care. Thus, belief in participatory options co-exists with low levels of knowledge on policies and widespread discontent with politics and governance. A surge in street protests and large-scale demonstrations – by younger people, climate and animal activists, but also middle-class groups like teachers, nursing personnel, farmers and building-industry employees, has been evident in the years since 2019; this trend continued during the coronavirus crisis of 2020-21 when social distancing rules were frequently disobeyed in large-scale protests and demonstrations. Overall, it appears that spontaneous, citizen-initiated efforts to exert power outside and beyond institutionalized venues and government-sponsored participatory policy exercises are gaining political traction.
M. Bovens, and A. Wille, 2011. Diplomademocratie. Over spanningen tussen meritocratie en democratie, Bert Bakker

SCP,. van Houwelingen et al., March 2014. Burgermacht op eigen kracht? Een brede verkenning van ontwikkelingen in burgerparticipatie, Den Haag

Stichting KiezersOnderzoek Nederland, 2021. Versplinterde Vertegenwoordiging.

SCP, De sociale staat van Nederland, 2020

Trouw, Visser, 23 August 2020.Een pandemie is voedsel voor complottheorieën: die bloeien als noot tevoren.

Trouw, de Wit, 25 June 2021. Nederlanders lijden aan een rampzalig gebrek aan kennis over internationale betrekkingen.

SCP, Djunjeva and de Ridder,8 October 2021. Dutch citizens’ expectations and perception of the EU’.

NRC, de Koning and Valk, 24 September 2021. ‘Mensen willen de politiek wel vertrouwen’, 20 March 2021. Klimaattransitie: ‘Stel burgerforum rond klimaatbeleid in.’

NRC, 4 December 2021. Jensma. Het recht als institutie raakt stilaan uit de gratie bij de burgers.
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. In recent years, observers have become most concerned about the strength of “partisan motivated reasoning” on the part of ordinary citizens. According to the 2019 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey, only 39% of U.S. adults could correctly identify the three branches of government (executive, judicial and legislative). Two years later, according to the 2021 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey, that figure was 54%, marking a major improvement over a relatively short period.
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; the majority is politically 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’ considerations and goals. 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. In particular, the information offered by tabloids, such as Heute, and distributed for free tends to be questionable and sometimes misleading. In line with international trends, social media propaganda also contributes to a lot of misinformation among certain strata of the population.

A majority of Austrians show moderate interest in politics, a characteristic possibly favored or reinforced by the limited opportunity for participation in the political process by direct democratic devices. As in other countries, social media reinforces the existing tendency toward fragmentation; information and communication “bubbles” exist through which politically aligned citizens strengthen the opinions of like-minded people. A specific problem is that there is no general civic education curriculum in the Austrian school system – and this deficit has an impact on the general level of political knowledge.

The nexus between institutionalized opportunities to participate, and the level of political interest and knowledge is underscored by a recent study that strongly suggests that interest in politics among young Austrians – who have been able to vote at the age of 16 since 2007 – has significantly increased. Other recent research suggests that even in the absence of more sophisticated political knowledge, young people living in Austria have a decent understanding of complex issues relating to immigration and immigration policies.

On the role of social meadia:
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.
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 are emerging, in many cases through websites and social networks. 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 Council for Culture and Arts in 2011 (Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes, CNCA) found 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 study of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) on the reading comprehension of adolescents, as well as by an OECD comparative study from 2016. 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 manipulation campaigns hinder public policy discussions, especially as social networks have become a key factor with regard to agenda setting and public opinion. In addition to these deficits in in-depth 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. 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.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Skills Matter – Further Results from the Survey of Adult Skills”, 28 June 2016,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Universidad de Chile, “El 84% de los chilenos no entiende lo que lee”, 14 December 2011,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
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. According to a Reuters Digital News Report from 2019, Croatia has the largest percentage of citizens who actively avoid news (more than 50%) among a sample of 30 countries. Moreover, interest in politics has been diminishing along with voter turnout rates, which have declined appreciably over the years.
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (2019): Digital News Report 2019. Oxford (
The main feature of citizen participation in politics and elections since 2011 has been apathy and alienation. Political discussions remain largely unproductive, primarily consisting of monologues. Turnout in 2021 elections was 66% (down from 90% 15 years ago), while only 25% of young people registered on electoral rolls.

No opinion surveys record levels of information among citizens. However, public opinion surveys show that negative views about each of the main party leaders are between 70% and 76%, while 55% of people hold a negative view of the president (21% hold a positive view). Public trust in institutions in the spring 2021 Eurobarometer survey receded to 27% for the parliament (34% in 2019) and 31% for the government (36% in 2019).

Despite the picture of mistrust, more Cypriots (54% / 63%) than on average in the EU27 (48% / 48%) appear to be informed about and satisfied with the EU response to COVID-19, according to the special European Parliament Eurobarometer, spring 2021. This might be the result of the government’s promotion of the Recovery and Resilience Plan during the campaign for the May 2021 parliamentary elections.
1. Special Euroepean Parliament Eurobarometer 95.1, Spring 2021,
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. Moreover, the quality of information disseminated through social media has also been tarnished by extreme polarization. The cleavage between supporters and opponents of reforms during the economic crisis of the 2010s was coupled by the cleavage between Greece’s pro-vaccination majority and anti-vaccination minority in 2020–2021. Such overlapping cleavages have reduced trust in information sources, including government ones. Thus, there was an inability for citizens to participate in meaningful ways in policy debates on the basis of trusted and shared data.

Citizens are not interested so much in government policymaking per se, as in relations of exchange with the state. While citizens’ identification with political parties has declined over time, there is still a tradition of turning to government ministers or members of parliament to obtain favors on an individual basis. However, old-fashioned political clientelism may have been curbed. Fiscal consolidation, which was implemented in 2010–2020 to prevent Greece defaulting on sovereign debt, has reduced the propensity among successive governments to increase public employment or to make social transfers based on clientelistic and politicized criteria.

Most citizens are not well-informed about government policies. In this context, political participation in decision-making has not improved.
The open-government consultation site is available at
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. Therefore, citizens and other external stakeholders rarely engage in policymaking; indeed, less than one-third participate in solving public issues at the municipal level, according to data from the Lithuanian Ministry of the Interior. Voter turnout rates are very low in comparative perspective, and have been declining over time.

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 envisioned 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 process of drafting the long-term “Lithuania 2050” strategy has involved significant public consultation with various stakeholders. In addition, the debate on the future of Europe, held within the framework of the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe, resulted in a number of initiatives by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, academics and the local representatives of the European Commission seeking to involve the general public in discussions about the EU and national policy responses to current challenges.
Reference to the Report of the Ministry of the Interior: 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. The coronavirus pandemic clearly exposed this information gap in Mexican politics, as many Mexicans proved to be ill-informed about the policy measures needed to contain the pandemic.

In the latest 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 (2021): In Mexico, support for democracy fell from 70.2% in 2004 to 49.4% in 2017, and rose to 63% in 2021. But only 50% of Mexicans are satisfied with democracy as practiced in Mexico. President Peña Nieto and his government left office with historically low approval ratings. President López Obrador started with an extraordinary high level of popular support, reaching 71% in November 2018. After half of his term, he still enjoys the support of 65% of Mexicans (November 2021). However, according to the Latinobarometro Report 2021, important political institutions do not enjoy a high level of trust in Mexico. Only 24% of the population trusts the judiciary, 22% the police, 22% the Congress, and only 13% the political parties.
ENCUP (2012). National Survey on Political Culture.
The average level of knowledge regarding government policy within the Polish public is limited. Many citizens have little knowledge regarding major political and public institutions and are unfamiliar with basic political facts (Cześnik/ Wenzel 2018). 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 citizens. Moreover, political parties (most of which lack a broad membership base), trade unions, and most other professional associations do not adequately perform their socialization function and do not work to improve their members’ policy knowledge. However, an important segment of society has become more interested in politics due to strong dissatisfaction with the PiS government’s policies and the polarization of society. This has become visible, for example, in public participation in demonstrations and campaigns, and the relatively high electoral turnout in the 2020 presidential elections.
Cześnik, M, M Wenzel (2018): Wiedza polityczna Polaków w perspektywie porównawczej, in: Athenaeum. Polskie Studia Politologiczne 57: 103-123 (
As noted in previous SGI reports, the bailout of 2011-2014 heightened citizens’ attention to and interest in policy matters, with this interest subsequently regressing somewhat. In a Eurobarometer survey carried out in June-July 2021, a total of 52% of respondents in Portugal had a “strong” or “medium” interest in politics, a roughly similar proportion to 2017-2019. This was the third-lowest total within the EU-27 with regard to “strong” and “medium” interest in politics, above only France and Spain, and well below the EU average of 64%. Moreover, the proportion of respondents claiming no interest in politics was 37%, the highest such share in the EU alongside Spain; and Portugal has the EU’s lowest share of people strongly interested in politics, at only 6%.

This result further strengthens our assessment in previous SGI 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.
Standard Eurobarometer 95, Spring 2021, Public opinion in the European Union, available online at:
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.
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. However, the Slovenian media are under increased political pressure, which makes objective reporting more difficult and consequently affects the public’s level of information. In addition, the journalists’ association criticizes the poor working conditions of journalists, which lead to self-censorship. Recurring corruption and political scandals, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, have fostered frustration and disenchantment among a majority of the population. Eurobarometer surveys suggest that public interest in politics and trust in political institutions are at the same low levels as a decade ago, albeit trust in the government increased by seven points between 2018 and 2021. Nevertheless, trust levels in government, parliament, political parties and public administration were all well below the EU-27 average during the period under review, and 68% of the population say things are going in the wrong direction.
European Commission (2021): Standard Eurobarometer 95. Brussels (
Citizens’ policy knowledge has suffered from the government’s biased information policies and the lack of transparency that characterizes Hungarian policymaking. The failure of the democratic opposition in the 2018 parliamentary elections initially led to political apathy. Since the municipal elections in October 2019, however, the political interest of many citizens has increased. Fidesz-fatigue has nurtured a thirst for independent news. The primaries held by the opposition parties and the real prospect of voting the Orbán government out of office in the April 2022 elections has increased political mobilization.
With the exception of communiques from the Ministry of Finance and the central bank, the government does not adequately inform citizens about the content and development of government policy. The head of government, ministers and other high government officials highlight success stories and policies, but do not offer follow-up details. Decisions, information and reports are posted on governmental websites, but are not presented in such a way as to adequately inform the public.

Social media does enable some feedback on governmental processes, but is used by politicians to propagate disinformation. The government passed a regulation that imposes serious penalties on broadcasters that criticize the government via social media. The public is increasingly less likely to be aware of political developments beyond the information provided via channels belonging to pro-government media outlets.
European Commission. “Turkey Report 2021. Commission Staff Working Document.” October 19, 2021.

Alat, B. 2018. “Türkiye’de İl Belediye Web Sitelerinin İşlevselliği Üzerine Bir Araştırma,” Fırat Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, 28(1), 93-114.
Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
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