Political participation is at the centre of democracy. Political participation serves not only the citizens who become active. By providing a democratic linkage between citizens and the political system, political participation also plays an essential role for the democratic system as a whole.

Defining political participation remains however a challenge given the ever-expanding number of forms of participation. Ever since political participation has been studied, citizens have found new ways of becoming politically involved and this expansion has been particularly rapid the last decades. At GASPAR we therefore rely on a broad definition of political participation and study two broad forms of citizens' activities that affect politics: 1) political participation that is located in the sphere of government (such as voting, party membership, top-down initiated referendums and citizen participation projects) and 2) political participation that targets the sphere of government or a collective or community problem (such as signing petitions, demonstrating and popular initiatives and referenda that are initiated bottom-up).

We furthermore conduct research on the relationship between these two forms of political participation and on how participation can strengthen losers’ consent. Therefore, we rely on both quantitative (surveys, experiments) and qualitative methods to study these topics and we investigate them in the Belgian context as well as in an international-comparative perspective.

Since October 2021, moreover, GASPAR is involved in a large-scale interdisciplinary research project (GOA), in which scholars from psychology, public management and political science seek to investigate the impact of new forms of participatory democracy on local government.

Key words: Voting, party membership, participatory budgeting, signing petitions, demonstrating, citizen assemblies, democratic innovation, institutionalized participation, non-institutionalized participation, referendums, direct democracy