The Politics of Participation
42 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 27 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
Standard models of political participation emphasize the role of factors largely external to politics, such as socioeconomic status and personal characteristics, but “political activity also has its roots in political issues and conflicts. [W]hat happens in politics has implications for who is active in politics” (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995, 415). What are the characteristics of citizens’ reactions to policy outcomes and the differential effects of these reactions on participation? Despite the clear importance of this question for democratic accountability, we know preciously little about its answer. We seek to shed light on this important antecedent of political participation – one strongly implied by prior work, but rarely examined with any level of rigor. We find that citizens invited to think about a public policy display a greater intent to participate in political activities, particularly those who have strong reactions to the policy and those who disagree with the policy. Positive emotions and evidence of self-interest are prevalent among those who strongly agree with policies, while positive and negative emotions are commonly observed among those who disagree strongly with a policy, and no evidence of self-interest. Finally, the effect of policy disagreement on participation is especially high among individuals who respond emotionally to policy, particularly those who are angry or afraid, while those who judge themselves worse off based on a policy participate less.
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