Responsive to the People? Comparing the European Cognitive Maps of Dutch Political Leaders and their Followers

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Responsive to the People? Comparing the European Cognitive Maps of Dutch Political Leaders and their Followers


  • Femke Van Esch Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  • Rik Joosen Utrecht School of Governance, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
  • Sabine van Zuydam Tilburg School of Politics and Public Administration, Tilburg University, The Netherlands


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Abstract:  Political leaders are often perceived as unresponsive to the daily concerns of citizens, especially when European integration is concerned. Academic research, however, provides at most mixed evidence for the existence of such a gap. This article tries to shed light on this discrepancy by introducing an alternative measure to study leaders’ responsiveness—narrative congruence—and explores the assumption that responsiveness increases leaders’ credibility in the eyes of their voters. As narrative congruence is a more intricate measure that captures leaders’ and followers’ policy preferences and argumentation, it may better capture the gap between their positions and therefore provide a more adequate explanation for citizens’ support for their leaders than traditional congruence measures like issue saliency and ideological distance. To provide a first test of this, the technique of cognitive mapping is introduced and used to explore the congruence in beliefs on European integration of four Dutch political leaders and their followers. Although the study finds a significant gap between some leaders and their followers’ narratives on Europe, it finds no evidence that this narrative congruence is related to the credibility of these leaders in the eyes of their followers.

Keywords:  cognitive mapping; credibility; European Union; narrative congruence; political leaders; responsiveness

Published:   23 June 2016


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v4i2.577


© Femke Van Esch, Rik Joosen, Sabine van Zuydam. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.