Do parliaments in Europe do what their voters and citizens want? In my Job Market paper “Political Representation Gaps in Europe,” I answer this question using a large survey dataset that contains the policy attitudes of over 2,100 European parliamentarians and over 31,000 European citizens and a hand-collected dataset on voting and initiation behavior of voters and parliamentarians in 126 European referendums.
I document large, significant, and systematic “political representation gaps.” As can be seen in the figure on the right, members of the European Parliament from neither of the main European party families have similar policy attitudes as the European voters. Voters are much more conservative on nearly all cultural issues considered, while their attitudes resemble those of their representatives more closely on economic issues.
After documenting these representation gaps, I explain how they can be stable despite electoral competition using a stylized model and examine whether their existence can help to explain the rise of populist parties and distrust in democratic institutions.