The Work Package 1 Political Legitimacy in Times of Crisis (short: PolLegKris) is investigating a potential crisis of political legitimacy in Germany and across European democracies. Citizens’ legitimacy beliefs are considered a crucial element of sustaining democracy. This project examines changes in legitimacy beliefs in Germany and other established democracies. It investigates the extent to which the economic and financial crises, mass migration, and other severe societal and democratic challenges affect political legitimacy, with a special focus on a possible relationship between a crisis of legitimacy beliefs and the emergence of populism. The project is guided by two different perspectives on this relationship which can be formulated as research questions:
(1) Is populism the consequence of the decline of political legitimacy and, thereby, maybe a reaction to a representational gap?
(2) Or, is populism causing a crisis of political legitimacy and, thereby, threatening democracy?
PolLegKris applies a multi-level and supply-demand approach by linking citizens’ behavior and evaluations (micro level) to party behavior (meso level), and to crises and system legitimacy (macro level). This perspective on democratic politics relies on in-depth quantitative data analyses, which can explain the decline of political legitimacy in Germany and in comparative perspective.
The project draws on the theoretical and methodological expertise of the team who is closely cooperating with all partners involved in Solikris and other researchers at the WZB. It relies on the team members’ prior works on parties, public opinion, populism, migration, survey research, and political text analysis.