Wisdom or Indifference? The Principles of Representative Government in the Eyes of the French Voters
Journal of Legislative Studies
GB : Frank Cass Publishers
196 - 218 p.
public opinion, legislatures, France, focus groups, political representation
This contribution attempts to assess qualitatively the current views of ordinary French citizens about political representation in general and their MPs in particular. In contrast to the Tocquevillian idea of an unequivocal egalitarian claim rising from the people, the results of the present study support the view that citizens tend to adopt both democratic and aristocratic principles in their perceptions of political representation. General support for the electoral procedure captures such ambiguity as elections are not only legitimate on democratic grounds (the egalitarian civic participation) but also on aristocratic grounds (the selection of the best). This study follows an original method involving analysis of discussions from 11 focus groups within French constituencies in 2010–11. The results of an experimental design comparing various kinds of elected position (parents' representatives, workers' representatives, MPs and the President of the Republic) are presented and discussed.