Looking beyond the Crisis of Democracy: Patterns of Representation in Israeli Elections

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Abstract

Western democracies have been suffering for several decades from the “crisis of representative democracy”. This crisis is evident in the citizenry’s disaffection with politics and politicians, declining voter turnout, and the upsurge of antiestablishment and populist candidates and parties, among other phenomena. Against this backdrop we ask whether we witness the end of representative democracy or rather a vital change in the manifestations of representative democracy. Based on Pitkin’s classic multidimensional conception of political representation, our project offers a harmonious analysis of these dimensions together in the Israeli political context, as pronounced in the discourse of (1) three major actors in democracies (politicians, media, and citizens); (2) across platforms (speeches, policies, social media, news coverage, and public opinion surveys); (3) while taking into account the reciprocal relationships among these actors and platforms; and (4) and the longitudinal dynamics. By using our state-of-the-art computational algorithm for content analyses of big data, we hypothesize that politicians represent their citizens in much more symbolic ways (by emphasizing shared experiences, narratives, and values) than substantive (actual policy activity). This is due to the increasing personalization and populism in Israel, the rise in collective identity considerations in Israeli politics, and the rise of social media—which enables representatives to address their constituents directly. Moreover, by gauging a wide range of elements in the Israeli political discourse—values, narratives, frames, issues, and vocabulary—we will examine whether changes in the discourse regarding representation result from developments among the public or from strategic manipulations by political elites.

Research Team

Principal Investigators

Tamir Sheafer

Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • Bio ▾

    Tamir Sheafer is the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Sheafer’s research is focused on issues such as the role of charisma in politics, political personalization, and information processing of politicians. Currently, he leads two large-scaled projects. The first centers on the effects of political culture and narrative proximity between nations and people, and their role in such issues as international communication flow, public diplomacy, and electoral behavior. The second develops advanced state-of- the-art computational text analysis methods for analyzing and understanding complex and multilayered public discourse around the world.

Shaul Shenhav

Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • Bio ▾

    Shaul Shenhav is an expert on political narratives. He leads two large-scaled projects. The first centers on the effects of political culture and narrative proximity between nations and people. The second develops advanced state-of- the-art computational text analysis methods for understanding multilayered public discourse around the world.

Participants

Dror Markus

PhD Student, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • Bio ▾

    Dror Markus is the programmer of our system for computational content analysis. His research explores the effect of the “Information Age” on traditional parliamentary structures, procedures, and mechanisms of information collection, with a specific focus on the influence of new information channels and sources (e.g., social media, media, interest groups).

Guy Mor

MA Student, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • Bio ▾

    Guy Mor is a programmer of our system for computational content analysis. He studies the preference structures of political elites and the public and how they affect the quality of democratic representation. Besides survey-based data, his research utilizes the inference of political preferences from textual data and social media behavior.

Alon Zoizner

PhD student, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • Bio ▾

    Alon Zoizner is a research associate in this project on the crisis of representative democracy in Israel. His research focuses on how election campaigns are portrayed by journalists and politicians, and how this affects citizens' political attitudes, reflected in social media and public opinion surveys.

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