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Direct vs. Indirect Democracy

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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > D, E > Direct vs. Indirect Democracy

Direct vs. Indirect Democracy 

Direct democracy refers to a situation in which citizens participate somewhat equally in the decision-making process. Indirect democracy refers to a situation in which a subset of elected representatives makes most of the political decisions.

(PADM 5117)


How a citizen is able to contribute to the decisions that may limit their equality and/or freedom.

Direct Democracy - every citizen equally shares in the decisions of limits of equality/freedom. This can be in the form of the New England Town Hall Model, the use of Referendum or the Initiative process.

Indirect (Representative) Democracy - a subset of citizens (elected representatives) will reflect the opinion of a portion of the whole. See also, representative democracy. 

(PADM 5117, Winter 2009)


Direct transparency refers to the sort of openness that comes from activities or results that are directly observable by the public at large, or from face-to-face encounters between officeholders and those they serve. An example of direct transparency can be found in the town meeting tradition of the Eastern United States (Bryan 2004).


Bryan, Frank M. 2004. Real Democracy: The New England Town Hall Meeting and How It Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

PADM 5117, 2009


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© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance