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Institutional Incentives for Forms of Political Participation Beyond the Vote – How Institutional Openness Affects the Choice to Participate

Publication Type:

Workshop Paper


ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, St. Gallen (2011)


Democracy, Political Institutions, Political Participation


Comparative studies of political participation beyond the vote have often neglected the impact of the institutional structure on the likelihood of participation in different participatory modes. This paper aims to rectify this by examining whether the institutional structure provides incentives for participation in a broader range of forms of participation. Four forms of participation are identified: party activism, protest activism, associational activism, and consumer activism. These forms of participation differ in their relationship to the formal political system and their internal characteristics. The data used to examine differences in the institutional impact on these forms of participation is the first round of the European Social Survey from 2001, which includes 35684 respondents from 18 European established democracies. The method of analysis is multilevel logistic analyses carried out for the four forms of participation. The institutional structure is restricted to five institutional aspects that affect the institutional openness of the system by concentrating the distribution of decision-making powers: the effective electoral threshold, executive dominance, career paths of politicians and bureaucrats, system of interest mediation, and the degree of local autonomy. The results suggest that important institutional incentives do exist for most forms of political participation. Nonetheless, there are notable deviations from the expectations in how the institutions matter. Contrary to the expectations, this effect is more pronounced for political consumerism, although this is the form of participation the furthest removed from the formal political sphere. Accordingly, it may be necessary to rethink the connections between the institutional structure and individual behaviour.