Mariken van der Velden and Andreu Casas receive NWO NWA Small Project Grant

Dr. Mariken van der Velden and dr. Andreu Casas of the Political Communication Research Group received an NWO NWA Small Project Grant (€50k) to examine how politicians can communicate policies so that they are accepted by the general public.

03/01/2021 | 4:48 PM

Nowadays, political power is more dispersed: part of a national government’s political power to make decisions and design policy (change) is delegated to the European level, and part of it is delegated to a local or regional level. In an ever changing world - where an economic crisis is followed up by a migration crisis, and in turn the current pandemic - the several layers of governance have to be able to cooperate and switch strategies. This means that political actors have to sometimes come back on their promises. While this could make political decision-making processes efficient, it also blurs the democratic procedures of accountability. Losing grip on procedural fairness potentially leaves citizens with a feeling of corrupt procedures. This in turn impacts the legitimacy of these decisions.

The current Covid-19 crisis underlines that the legitimacy of political decision-making is under pressure. To contain the virus, it is critical that the vast majority of citizens comply with the guidelines laid out by the political actors on all levels of governance. Yet, many people are not fully cooperative and openly doubt the legitimacy of the policy decisions enacted to fight the pandemic. 

To empirically research the effect of political rhetoric on citizens’ perceptions of democratic legitimacy, we use the VU elections studies’ panel survey data with embedded experiments, as well as the collected textual and visual social media data. Our project aims to advance our understanding of citizens’ attitudes towards democratic processes in times of crisis, where more than ever politicians count on citizens to accept their information and decisions. These insights allow scientists and policy makers together to form a vision and strategize how to foster the current necessary cooperation on all political levels and between all political ideologies. Adrem Debat & Strategie, will use our findings in their workshops to train (future) politicians in debate and media performance.