Prof. Dr. Armin Schäfer, Institut Für Sozialwissenschaften, Universität Osnabrück
As turnout has declined in many developed democracies, it has also become more unequal. Recent studies show that citizens with low socio-economic status stay away from the polls in disproportionate numbers. The gap in political participation is most pronounced in countries with high levels of income inequality. Analyzing both cross-sectional and longitudinal data, I will first show the growing disparity in turnout levels. In a second step, I will take a closer look at Germany and ask whether or not social groups differ in their political preferences. If they did not, unequal participation would be less of a concern for democracy. However, there are consistent patterns of opinion differences linked to social groups. Political decisions, in turn, are closely aligned with the opinions of the better-off to the detriment of the poor. Hence, the numerical underrepresentation of lower classes in Parliament might be more consequential than conventional theories of representation are ready to admit.
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