The Legitimacy of Representation. How Descriptive, Formal, and Responsiveness Representation Affect the Acceptability of Political Decisions


Literature on the topic has proposed that the reflection of society in a
representative body in terms of relevant socio-economic characteristics
improves the quality of democratic representation. Descriptive
representation would help disadvantaged groups in their gaining of equal
status, and it has been shown to affect policies positively—especially for
those who have been disadvantaged. It is less clear, however, how citizens
evaluate descriptive representation. We examine this concept from an
individual perspective, and ask whether decisions are more legitimate
when they are made by groups that reflect society in certain
characteristics. For this purpose, we designed a survey experiment that we
ran in Norway in 2014. We find that people are more willing to accept a
decision when it is made by a group of people like them, and who are also
experts. Moreover, the traditionally less advantaged groups tend to value
descriptive representation more than other citizens