The European Parliament has often been accused of its inability to link to European citizens. My colleague Sofia Vasilopoulou and I are interested in the extent and conditions under which the preferences of voters and their representatives align on core policy issues and traditional political dimensions. In particular, we investigate opinion congruence, which can be understood as an indicator of democratic representation.
In our first publication, we examined the extent to which policy preferences between voters and MEPs align on core socio-economic and socio-cultural issues following the 2009 European elections; and what explains why some MEPs are better at representing their voters than others. We found, among other things, that MEPs belonging to right-wing and liberal parties in general tend to be closer to their voters than leftist MEPs.
We are currently working on a new paper which develops our ideas further. The aim of this paper is to identify and explain variation in opinion congruence between European Parliament parties and their voters on the left-right and the pro-anti-EU dimensions in eight EU elections over time.
Vasilopoulou, S. and Gattermann, K. (2013). Matching Policy Preferences: The Linkage between Voters and MEPs, Journal of European Public Policy 20(4): 606-625