Decentralization and Political Participation: Regional Self-Rule in Europe

Posted: 16 Jun 2015

Date Written: February 27, 2015


This paper studies political behavior in the context of decentralization. Interest in the right of regional authority has risen immensely. Secession attempt in Scotland and Catalonia vividly illustrate that citizens are excited and energized by this topic. But not only current events suggest that decentralization should affect individual political participation. Already early theorists highlighted potential participatory effects of local institutions. Given the debate on deteriorating political involvement of citizens, it is thus even more striking that the contextual effect of decentralization has been largely neglected in the study of political behavior. We therefore argue that self-rule can to some extent explain the variation of participation between European regions. Thanks to the commendable effort by Hooghe, Marks, and Schakel data on regional authority is available for several European countries. After merging regional with individual data from the fifth wave of the European Social Survey and institutional variables of countries, we obtain a comprehensive data set that allows for meaningful comparison. Since we analyze individuals nested in regions, which are in turn nested in countries, we apply three-level hierarchical modeling to estimate the relationship between regional self-rule and various forms of political participation. Additionally, we consider several cross-level interaction effects. In doing so, we attempt to uncover whether regional authority is moderated either by country-specific aspects of the political system or individual attributes. Our contribution wishes to provide some theoretical arguments and empirical evidence for the currently heated debate on issues of decentralization as well as waning political involvement of citizens.

Keywords: Regional authority, Decentralisation, Political participation, Political opportunity structures, Educative effects

Suggested Citation

Fatke, Matthias, Decentralization and Political Participation: Regional Self-Rule in Europe (February 27, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

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