Listening to citizens

Authors

  • Dennis van Driel
  • Lea Freudenberg
  • Alessandra Goio
  • Kimberley Hollender
  • Lisbeth Huber
  • Brian Megens
  • Klaartje Peters
  • Ronja Schiffer
  • Maike Schmeitz

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.26481/marble.2016.v4.311

Keywords:

local government, local politics, local decision-making, input, output, citizens, representatives, interaction

Abstract

Focusing on local politics in the Meuse-Rhine Euregion,  this report investigates the interaction between citizens and local politicians in four municipalities: Riemst (Belgium, Flanders), Visé (Belgium, Wallonia), Übach-Palenberg (Germany) and Valkenburg aan de Geul (Netherlands). The purpose of the research project is to bring new insights into the interaction between citizens and local politicians and the expectations of citizens about that interaction. Therefore, this report analyses the experiences of citizens with politicians (including the mayor) at local government level, using Easton’s (1965) model of the political system and Denters’ (2013) models for the role of elected representatives.The research was conducted in the framework of the Marble (Maastricht Researched Based Learning for Excellence) programme, open for highly motivated and excellent undergraduate students. The structured interviews with the citizens were conducted in April and May 2016.Overall, this research finds that, despite some differences between the four municipalities in terms of the relationship between citizens and local politicians, most citizens contact their local politicians for a concrete problem affecting them. Citizens expect politicians to help them with these issues. On the other hand, citizens expect politicians to approach them to ask for input in the decision-making process. These expectations fit best with the politicians’ role of trustee and democratic watchdog as defined by Denters (2013). Local politicians do not completely fulfil these expectations yet. They should engage with citizens more often to ask for their input or to explain council decisions (output). As an approach to tackle this issue and facilitate effective communication, this paper proposes implementing “tailored” communication modes, based on the different target groups.This research is complementary to the 2015 study by Peters et al., which focused on the experiences and expectations of local politicians in the same four municipalities in the Meuse-Rhine Euregion.

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Published

2016-12-08