The Pitkinian Public: Representation in the Eyes of Citizens

Liron Lavi, Clareta Treger, Naama Rivlin-Angert, Tamir Sheafer, Israel Waismel-Manor, Shaul Shenhav, Liran Harsgor, Michal Shamir

Research output: Working paperPreprint


What does it mean for citizens in democracies to be represented? Does it even matter? Representation theories and studies have mostly emphasized the representatives, giving only limited attention to the represented. In this paper, we address this lacuna by adopting Hanna Pitkin’s multidimensionality of representation and the act-for/stand-for tiered structure she posits, along with a reconceptualization of dyadic and collective representation as a matrix (rather than a dichotomy). We develop theoretically (and examine empirically) how citizens perceive all of Pitkin’s dimensions concurrently and their tiered structure at two points on the dyadic-collective matrix: representation by a politician/party and representation by the parliament. We develop a novel set of questions, based on in-depth interviews and designed to capture Pitkin’s theoretical concept of representation empirically among citizens. Utilizing the 2019-20 Israel National Election Studies, we find that citizens’ subjective patterns of representation are Pitkinian - multidimensional and tiered - across dyadic and collective representation. We further find that these patterns contribute to citizens’ overall feeling of representation, and that multidimensional representation, especially by the parliament (where they feel less represented), promotes support for democracy. Our study calls for more focus on representation from the citizens’ standpoint.
Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 28 Apr 2021


  • Representation; Democratic backsliding; Dyadic and collective representation; Israel


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