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Soc. Sci. 2016, 5(3), 40; doi:10.3390/socsci5030040

Engaging Citizen Participation—A Result of Trusting Governmental Institutions and Politicians in the Portuguese Democracy

1
Faculty of Sciences and Technology, New University of Lisbon (FCT-UNL), Quinta da Torre, Campus Universitário, 2829-516 Caparica, Portugal
2
Geographical Institute of Lisbon, Rua da Artilharia, 1099-052 Lisboa, Portugal
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Martin J. Bull
Received: 8 May 2016 / Revised: 26 July 2016 / Accepted: 27 July 2016 / Published: 5 August 2016
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Abstract

Public participation is a mainstay of democracy. However, the ways in which it can be understood inevitably influence the achievement of the goals that preside over any public policy. Literature argues that the drawbacks of citizen participation are directly related to the level of trust in governmental institutions and in politicians. The present study was carried out on a sample of 250 individuals and aimed to (1) describe citizens’ opinions and trust in politicians and government institutions; and (2) demonstrate that healthy levels of citizen engagement in politics may be upheld as long as citizens trust their political institutions and leaders, through a case study of Portugal’s democratic system. The current study found no statistically significant association between political participation and the study participant’s perception that government representatives heard (p = 0.769) or considered (p = 0.810) their opinions. Similarities were found between the participants’ assessments of the quality of life brought about by the decisions of those in power and the levels of citizen participation around land planning and land management (p = 0.011). Also, citizen assessments of life quality were influenced by their understanding of political decisions (p = 0.014). Effective communication between citizens and politicians will allow both to better understand the aims of political policy. When citizens believe that politicians are honest, show moral leadership and demonstrate integrity, and that these values are upheld by public institutions, a common aspiration can be realized: improving the quality of life. View Full-Text
Keywords: citizen’s; public participation; trust; politicians; environmental; spatial planning citizen’s; public participation; trust; politicians; environmental; spatial planning
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Carreira, V.; Machado, J.R.; Vasconcelos, L. Engaging Citizen Participation—A Result of Trusting Governmental Institutions and Politicians in the Portuguese Democracy. Soc. Sci. 2016, 5, 40.

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