Isn’t it a timely subject these days? This is also the title of one of Karolina Koc-Michalska forthcoming articles, with her co-author Daren Lilleker, to be published in Political Communication. What are the reasons for political disengagement? Why are we losing trust in political elites? What are the incentives which could increase political participation?
In recent years, one reads and hears more and more about the lack of civic engagement and political participation in the developed world. People become disinterested in politics and often lose trust in political elites. Their lack of understanding of the political and economic processes and their disappointment with life achievements may lead to social disengagement, or to choosing political players proposing sometimes simplistic or unrealistic solutions. All this is introducing tensions within society.
The article aims to understand which process may lead to such disengagement, or in other words, what are the incentives that may influence the increase of political participation. What are the motivations that stimulate citizens to different forms of political participation – offline and online? The Internet is often claimed as a tool with some potential to reinvigorate democracy, attracting those otherwise not interested (young, less educated) into political activities, like signing online petitions, writing about political events, or posting on social media about social issues. Positive mobilization messages received from political parties, non-governmental organizations or friends via social media also play their part. The authors assume that the strength of encouragement may moderate the impact of motivations. Based on psychological theories, they distinguish two different types of motivations: intrinsic motivations, like feeling personally good about participation and the possibility to influence others, and extrinsic motivations, inspired by other people’s actions, or by the fact that others can benefit from my actions. This can possibly impact willingness to engage in any civic or political action, or not.
So what are the conclusions? They find a very strong and prevailing effect of extrinsic motivations: people do care about others’ opinion concerning themselves, and it is a main influencer of political participation, both offline and online. Interestingly, it seems that only mobilization messages from non-governmental organizations play an important role in commitment. They moderate mainly the intrinsic motivations for online engagement. Another interesting finding is the possible commitment of people from lower social classes in online activities, while they are completely disengaged in offline participation.
If you want to know more, read the article What Drives Political Participation? Motivations and Mobilization in a Digital Age on line!