REDEM (IV). The Demos, Partisanship and Technology

Notes from the conference Reconstructing Democracy in Times of Crisis: A Voter-Centred Perspective, organized by SciencesPo/CEVIPOF, and held in Paris, France, on 5 and 6 February 2020. More notes on this event: redem2020

Ludvig Beckman, University of Stockholm

You cannot be enfranchised if you do not have the real ways to participate in elections.

By what kind of principle can we define the demos in a democracy? Is it the status of citizenship the same as the demos?

If you are part of the demos it’s because you are affected by the decisions of this very same demos. How can we define how one is affected by such decisions? The fact that the state can coerce you to abide with the decision made, then you are affected. You are a subject if, according to the law, you have some duties abiding from the decisions made.

The problem is that not always your jurisdiction coincides with the extent of the law.

Andreas Brøgger Albertsen, Aarhus University

Using voting advice applications (VAA) affects turnout. There is evidence that affects party choice and political references. VAA usage affects knowledge. And use of VAA depends on education, income, age, etc. and has discrimination effects.

How are individual voter’s political preferences affected by receiving advice from a voting advice application?

We find that VAA increases the likelihood of changing your vote if you receive incongruent advice in relationship with your own prior views.

We should strive for differential effects counteracting existing inequalities. That is, to use VAA to affect those less prone to vote so to help them to take the decision of voting. VAA should also be improved to include ethical issues usually not covered by this kind of applications, including the ethics of influence. Also include the impact of VAA in candidate choice, not only party choice.

Toni Gibea, University of Bucharest

Role of experimental ethics in participation and voting. That is, how specific (social) experiments or experiences can affect one’s own judgement and, thus, how we are affecting people’s decisions. What are the ethics behind this? Should be taken into account.

Sometimes, you don’t need to take specific actions to affect judgement and people’s decisions. If a given political candidate states that they will be implementing policies leading to the exclusion of a given minority, is that harming that minority? Are voters of such candidate actually contributing to harm that minority? How ethical is that?

There is a debate whether reasoning improves intuition (dual-process model) or, on the contrary, reasoning finds ways to back and support former intuition (social intuition model).

Chiara Destri, CEVIPOF/Sciences Po. Voting citizens and the ethics of democracy

There is some failure to address actual democratic institutions when providing a justification of democracy: representation, mass participation organised through political parties; failure to to answer to the citizen “incompetence challenge”; failure to account for a democratic understanding of political obligation.

Double role of citizens: as rule-takers, and as rule-givers, that is, “rule of the people, by the people, for the people”. What are the duties citizens have in their role as rule-givers?

What is the distinctive content of democratic citizens’ political obligation? What is the political obligation of parties? What is the political obligation of representatives?

Voting is an action which:

  • It is outcome-oriented: citizens vote for someone or something; contributory theory of voting.
  • It expresses citizens’ attitudes and beliefs.
  • It involves a relation between each citizen, what she votes for and other citizens: electoral results affect all, one votes together or against other citizens (both a cooperative and competitive dimension).
  • It comes as the end of a process involving other aspects (public debate, political campaigning, deliberation).

Informed voting as due diligence: voting is a contribution to a result and a relation to other citizens. There is a duty to vote “well”, to get informed before voting. The outcome-oriented dimension of voting requires citizens to be collectively responsible for the outcomes. The relational dimension of voting requires citizens to be individual responsible with respect to their fellow citizens as co-authors of the law. It is consistent with pluralism and reconsiders citizens autonomous political rights.

Parties have important motivational and epistemic functions. they organise political competition. The simplify the political discourse and develop policy platform. Make information publicly accessible. They are “catalyst to public justification”. Are venues of deliberation. Partisanship structures and supports political commitment.

Representatives also do have a role. Representative democracy is quite different from direct democracy, both in the functioning and the justification. The constant tension between the democratic ideal and its representative institutionalisation: accountability to citizens, accountability to parties. Representation as a performative process whereby interests and political entities are also created and not simply taken as given.


Toni Gibea: there is an interesting paradox in fake news where partisans are able to correctly identify fake news created by their opponents, but are genuinely unable to identify the fake news disseminated by their own parties.

Ismael Peña-López: about VAAs, one of their problems is where they get the reference data from. They usually get them either from what a given party voted in the Parliament, or what a given party stated in their electoral programme. But there are deviations between those two references: parties can state one thing in their electoral programme and to the opposite when at the Parliament (for several reasons, legitimate or illegitimate). How to measure this bias/gap? How to include it in VAAs?

Reconstructing Democracy in Times of Crisis: A Voter-Centred Perspective (2020)

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