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POLITICAL SOCIOLOGY CITIZEN PARTICIPATION What factors influence individual decisions to participate in politics in advanced economies?
Citizen Activity - Who Participates? What do they Say? APSR 87: Verba, Sidney et al
- Political activists in America are unrepresentative of the wider population, and this has democratic implications.
- This study found that voters and non-voters do not vary significantly in their attitudes to public policy issues. Political activity is highly correlated to socio-economics, with graduates and those earning over $50,000pa significantly more likely than the mean citizen to engage; having a clear partisan identity, whether left or right, also marginally increases participation, but being a minority or a woman slightly reduces it1. The Role of Emotions in Political Participation - JP 73: Valentino, Nicholas et al
- Public emotions towards political parties have been measured in surveys by the American National Election Studies organisation. The authors hypothesise that anger and anxiety mobilise participation.
- They found that anger at a political party boosts participation by a third, but anxiety and enthusiasm had no significant effect2. Anger and fear had as big an impact on levels of participation as education, and a greater one than income differentials. Therefore, the ability of political parties to mobilise voters' emotions can have a significant impact on electoral outcomes. The Structural Contexts of Civic Engagement - ASR 66: Schofer, Evan et al
- The authors used data from the 1991 World Value Survey to study voluntary organisation membership in 32 nations, and its impact on political participation. Statism was found to constrain all types of associational activity, corporateness boosts membership; the nations studied appear to be slowly converging on the Anglo-American model of voluntary association3.
- The number of citizens participating in at least one voluntary organisation varies from c70% in the US and Scandinavian nations to less that 30% in Japan; nations also vary in the types of association which are popular; religious associations are much more popular in American than in Western European nations.
- Religion, socio-economics, and gender all have a significant impact on levels of civic participation.
- Most nations experienced an expansion in organisational membership between 1981 and 1991, with average membership rising from 0.81 organisations to 0.93. Citizenship in Britain - Values, Participation, and Democracy: Pattie, Charles et al
- Putman's study of declining levels of political participation in the Western world pointed to falling social capital among voters, with growing television consumption and rapid suburbanisation bearing a share of the blame for this.
- Three models of civic activism: Putman's social capital model, Oliver's suburban democracy model, and a community socio-economic status model.
- Putman emphasises trust levels between residents and associational activity. He found that associational activity levels were highest in the SE of Britain, and fell with population density and 1 Citizen Activity - Who Participates? What do they Say? APSR 87: Verba, Sidney et al 2 The Role of Emotions in Political Participation - JP 73: Valentino, Nicholas et al 3 The Structural Contexts of Civic Engagement - ASR 66: Schofer, Evan et al
socio-economic wellbeing across the regions. Overall, 55% of Britons were not associated with any group activity. Specifying the Relationship between Social Ties and Activism - AJS 99: McAdam, Doug et al
- A public good is only an incentive for joint contribution to its provision, if those who benefit from the good at least perceive some influence arising from their contribution, the costs of contributing being otherwise better than the benefits derived from it. If not, joint efforts for the provision of a given public good will not ensue4.
- Studies about the importance of social ties face difficulties in gathering usable data. It is difficult to quantify sociological dynamics. Scholars struggle to specify the precise dimensions of social ties and their relative value. Further, individuals with many social ties will be exposed to conflicting social pressures, making behavioural impact potentially unquantifiable.
- A person's sympathy towards an association is relatively irrelevant if they lack the structural capacity to participate in it. Knowing someone already involved in an organisation is one of the strongest predictors of future membership.
- This study focuses on high-risk activism, specifically the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in 1964, at the height of the civil rights movement in America. Using the application forms of participants for data, the researchers examined the varying activities of persons with 'strong' or 'weak' ties of affiliation. Applicants who lacked support from their parents and/or other volunteers were less likely to participate in the project; their participation rate was 65% compared to c85%
with an associational support network5.
- Four things impact on the likelihood of associational participation: the occurrence of specific recruiting attempts; the successful linkage of movement and identity; support for movement participation by peers; the absence of strong opposition to participation from peers. How Group Identification Helps to Overcome the Dilemma of Collective Action - ABS 45: B. Klandermans
- People are more likely to participate in protest if a group they identify with is being treated unjustly. Group identification fosters protest and protest participation reinforces group identification6.
- Collective action is not a very common response to injustice; most people will do nothing. Subsequent politicization requires individuals to become subsumed within group activity and the cause that the group identifies with has to be made politically relevant.
- Entry into the 'elderly' group is inevitable for all citizens at some point. However, two-thirds of the government-defined 'senior citizens' in Klandermans' study did not consider themselves 'elderly';
70.6 was the average age that respondents deemed themselves in this category. Selfcategorisation as 'elderly' was significantly correlated to the existence of health problems. This demonstrates that self-identification with a group is a prerequisite to collective action. Trends of Civic Association in Four Democracies - ASR 71: Anderson, Robert et al
- This study uses survey data from the 1960s to the 1990s to examine whether civic activity has declined in Canada, America, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. They found associational activity had declined in the US but remained relatively stable in the other nations. The American decline pertains only to women, perhaps reflecting their widespread entry into the workplace and withdrawal of state support for alternative lifestyle choices7.
4 Specifying the Relationship Between Social Ties and Activism - AJS 99: McAdam, Doug et al 5 Specifying the Relationship Between Social Ties and Activism - AJS 99: McAdam, Doug et al 6 How Group Identification Helps to Overcome the Dilemma of Collective Action - ABS 45: B. Klandermans 7 Trends of Civic Association in Four Democracies - ASR 71: Anderson, Roberts et al
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