Political Participation: Definition, Types & Examples

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What is Political Participation? – Definition, Types, Examples

Political Participation
Political Participation

Definition of Political Participation

Political participation is one of those concepts in the social science that have been defined in several ways and giving different meanings.

Nie and Verba have defined political participation as consisting of those nerve activities by private citizens which are more or less directly aimed at influencing the selection of government personnel and/or the action they take.

It involves those voluntary activities by which members of society share in the selection of rulers and directly or indirectly in the formation and implementation of public policy.

Simply put, it is involvement of citizens in political activities and effective political socialization affect in positive terms the future political participation.

By implication, political participation involves from the various interpretations given to it in the following:

  • It is concerned with influencing the composition and conduct, or personnel and policies, of government.
  • It is not limited to voting at elections but includes many other ways in which citizens try to influence government decisions.
  • Since political participation is often defined to include the activities of private citizens only, government and party officials are described as objects and not source of political participation.
  • Illegal and often violent forms of participation such as riots and assassinations are treated as abnormal as only legal form of participation are recognised.
  • Participation is often regarded as desirable or positive process. It has been as civic duty; as a sign of political health, as the best method of ensuring that one’s private interests are not neglected and as requisite in a democracy.

Types of Political Participation

Political participation may take any of the following forms.

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  1. Gathering information about political issues
  2. Voting
  3. Discussion of political issues
  4. Opinion leadership
  5. Wearing a badge putting a sticker on a car
  6. Petitioning political leaders
  7. Making financial donation
  8. Attending political meetings
  9. Campaigns
  10. Active political membership
  11. Soliciting political funds
  12. Seeking and holding office
  13. Protest and demonstration

Hierarchy of Political Participation

As mentioned above, interest in politics varies from one person to another. In image below, the degree of political participation moves in descending order from gladiatorial activities to transition activities to spectator activities and lastly to apathetic activities.

Degree of Political Participation
Degree of Political Participation

Thus, the most politically active citizens are those engaged in gladiatorial activities while the most passive are those involved in a pathetic activities.

However, a person who is involved at 1st level may also be engaged at another level 2 and insignificant manner. The more a person moves from the ladder, the more the resources used by him.

Classification of Political Activities

Political activities may therefore be classified into the following four categories:

  • Gladiatorial Activities
  • Holding public and party office;
  • Seeking public or party office;
  • Attending a caucus or strategy meeting;
  • Soliciting political funds;
  • Becoming an active member of a political party;
  • Contributing time in a political campaign.

Transitional Activities

Transition activities constitute about 7 to 9 percent of all political activities. They include:

  • Attending a political meeting or rally;
  • Making financial contribution to a party or candidate;
  • Contacting a public official or a public leader.

Spectator Activities 

More than 60 percent of the citizens are engaged in spectator activities which include the following:

  • Wearing a badge or button or putting a sticker on the car;
  • Attempting to persuade another to vote in a certain way;
  • Initiating a political discussion;
  • Voting;
  • Gathering information on political matters.

Apathetic Activities 

The apathetic constitute about 30 percent of the population and are generally ignorant of the political activities taking place around them.

Reason for Political Participation

There are several reasons why people participate in politics.

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  1. Realisation of economic interests
  2. Satisfaction of psychological needs
  3. Desire to increase understanding of the political environment
  4. Group pressure
  5. Evidence of affirmation of loyalty
  6. Low cost of participation
  7. Civic duty
  8. Basis for common action
  9. Entertainment value of politics
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