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Local Civic Participation and Democratic Legitimacy: Evidence from England and Wales



Concern about declining legitimacy of national democratic institutions has driven an expansion of reforms to increase public participation. This article tests the claim that greater local civic participation is associated with increased democratic legitimacy. It makes explicit a theoretical basis for this relationship and builds indices for civic participation and legitimating attitudes. Empirical implications are tested in a series of hierarchical linear and ordered probit models using detailed individual-level data from the UK Citizenship Survey. I find that participation is persistently positively associated with attitudes expressive of democratic legitimacy, even when accompanied by negative evaluations of local authority outcomes, and that this effect is specific to procedural and fairness evaluations of legitimacy rather than governmental trust. This article thus broadly supports assumptions of democratic legitimation from expanding civic participation.