A Matter of Life or Death: A Survey Experiment on the Perceived Legitimacy of Political Decision-Making on Euthanasia

Henrik Serup Christensen, Staffan Himmelroos, Maija Setälä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Most representative democracies seem to experience dwindling levels of legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. Nevertheless, it remains unclear what people want from parliamentary decision-making. In this study, we test the impact of outcome favourability, actor involvement and justifications on the perceived legitimacy of a parliamentary decision-making process on euthanasia in Finland. We do so with the help of a survey experiment (n = 1243), where respondents were exposed to a vignette where the treatments varied randomly. The results suggest that outcome favourability is of primary importance, but the involvement of experts and citizens also boost legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. Justifications, or presenting arguments for the decisions, does not enhance legitimacy and may even cause a backfire mechanism where the difference between getting and not getting the preferred outcome is amplified.
Original languageEnglish
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)627–650
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 517 Political science

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