The role of political participation in a democratic state

deutschlandkarte2A democratic order in a state presupposes the participation of the state's citizens. The constitutional framework can be established through laws. But political participation is not limited to processes and structures that are regulated by state orders. Participation through the election of representatives is only one way in which people may contribute. To develop a deeper understanding of the role of political participation for democracy we need analyses that investigate the possibilities and barriers for various forms of participation.

The Participation Index – a sound foundation for statements about the state of political participation

Aim of the project

d|part develops an instrument for the investigation of the actual state of political participation in Germany. In doing so traditional participation processes as part of the representative systems (e.g. elections and party work) shall be considered, as well as newer, unconventional forms.

Why is the participation index necessary?

Statements about the development of democratic participation of the population are found on a daily basis in nearly all media outlets. Complaints about declining electoral turnout and political disinterestedness are very common. However, it often remains unclear what these claims are based on. On most occasions only the electoral turnout clearly associated with a sourced data foundation. Beyond this, claimed findings often are simply subjective perceptions.

While there are complex indices for other societally relevant topics (in an international context for example measures of corruption, press freedom, etc.) there is nothing comparable with regards to political participation. It is not sufficient though to simply employ single indicators such as voter turnout and compare those. The forms of political participation have multiplied – non-voters are not necessarily politically inactive, but may take part in participation forms beyond the traditional, representative system. To really understand how political participation is lived in a region or Germany as a whole, better instruments are required. This applies particularly if regions or states are supposed to be compared.


The development of the index is realised by d|part in cooperation with a network of interested researchers and the integration of practitioners. On the one hand this is to ensure the analytical quality of the instrument; on the other hand all relevant domains will be identified and reflected in the index. After the development of an initial draft of the d|part project team, in the first half of 2013 an event is planned to incorporate a wider circle of experts. The finalization of the index for the first phase of applications is planned for the summer of 2013.