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Citizens and the European PolityMass Attitudes Towards the European and National Polities$
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David Sanders, Pedro Magalhaes, and Gabor Toka

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199602339

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199602339.001.0001

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Informal Political Engagement in Europe, 1975–2007

Informal Political Engagement in Europe, 1975–2007

(p.39) 3 Informal Political Engagement in Europe, 1975–2007
Citizens and the European Polity

David Sanders

Paolo Bellucci

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on European citizens’ informal engagement with politics by considering the extent to which they discuss politics with other people and/or attempt to persuade them to change their political views. It uses Eurobarometer and European Social Survey data from 1975 to 2007 to explore the individual-level and macro-structural determinants of people’s informal engagement with the political process. Although there has been a clear decline in voter turnout in national elections across the EU since the early 1960s, citizens in many EU countries have, if anything, become more engaged in informal political activity. The empirical results reported show that at the individual level informal political engagement is strongly affected by gender, labour market position, and left-right ideology. In terms of macro-level effects, engagement is affected by the condition of the domestic economy, by the quality of the domestic democratic process, and by the size of the EU’s net contributions to the respondent’s country. The reported results also show that large-scale changes in the international system can invoke a temporary but significant increase in informal political engagement among mass publics. Controlling for a wide range other factors, the end of the Cold War appears to have produced a discernable increase in political discussion and persuasion between 1990 and 1993.

Keywords:   political engagement, individual-level effects, left-right ideology, gender, labour market position, macro-structural effects, economic conditions, quality of government

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