How Citizens Evaluate the Legitimacy of Direct Vote and Representation-Based Decision-Making: Findings From the Focus Groups on Adoption of the Euro and Acceptance of Refugees


  • Zuzana Scott
  • Lucie Lomičová
  • Jan Šerek


How should political decisions be made to ensure a high level of legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary citizens? In order to answer this question, we conducted six focus groups (N = 29) with adults (20-78 years old). We analyzed data using a thematic analysis, within the essentialist/realist framework and focused on the explicit meanings of the data. Two specific issues were explored: the adoption of the Euro and acceptance of Syrian orphan refugees. The bottom-up analysis revealed that participants considered two strategies of political decision-making (direct vote and representation based) and discussed the pros and cons of each process in detail. The results point out the importance of public deliberation, transparency, and the source of decision-making in evaluating the overall legitimacy of decisions-making process. Further, unlike popular belief that citizens are thirsty for direct democracy our results suggest that people are rather hesitant about placing big decisions into the hands of ordinary citizens, nor do they want to be burdened with making decisions about issues that might not affect them directly. Rather, people described representation-based decisions as legitimate if condition of transparency, deliberation, and trust in politicians is met.