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Is there a demand for descriptive representation? Evidence from the UK's devolution programme

Chaney, Paul and Fevre, Ralph William 2002. Is there a demand for descriptive representation? Evidence from the UK's devolution programme. Political Studies 50 (5) , pp. 897-915. 10.1111/1467-9248.00399

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Descriptive representation occurs when elected politicians are typical of the larger class of persons that they represent, such that blacks represent blacks, disabled people represent disabled people and so on. Research undertaken in the context of the UK government's devolution programme helps us to judge the strength of the demand for descriptive representation amongst political activists and elites. In the case of women, one grouping where proportional descriptive representation has (almost) been achieved, substantial benefits are perceived, for example in relation to improvements in the deliberative function of democracy. In the case of other 'minority' groupings the absence of descriptive representation is thought to have entailed significant costs. This failure has necessitated the development of complex bureaucratic structures that are seen as a poor substitute for descriptive representation. In this and other respects the innovations in governance introduced with devolution have helped to stimulate demand for descriptive representation. This demand exceeds the supply of representation on offer and descriptive representation will be the focus of an increasing amount of debate and controversy in future.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 0032-3217
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 01:48

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