The issue of the appropriate scale for local government has regularly appeared on the agenda of public sector reformers. In the empirical work devoted to this issue, the principal focus has been on the implications of size for efficiency in local service provision. Relatively less emphasis has been placed on the implications of size for the character and vitality of local democracy. This paper summarizes findings from a comparative research project which has sought to redress this imbalance by means of undertaking a closer inspection of relationships between municipal size and a set of indicators regarding the character of local democracy in four European countries, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands. The investigation draws upon cross-section interview data collected by means of a nested sample design consistent with the hierarchical nature of the issues involved. Empirical analyses are based on a strategy whereby theoretical models are developed and investigated for several different indicators of local democracy in a successive, cumulative fashion using a ‘funnel of causality logic’. This paper reports on results concerning local electoral political participation. We conclude that with the exception of the Dutch case there is no clear evidence of significant direct or indirect effects of municipal size on the likelihood of voting in local elections.
Democracy; Municipalities; Political participation; Elections; Size and Democracy
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72nd Annual Midwest Political Science Association Conference, 2014