Civic Engagement in Europe: A Multilevel Study of the Effect of Individual and National Determinants on Political Participation, Political Consumerism and Associational Involvement.

Necla Acik-Toprak

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    Abstract

    Abstract Necla Acik-Toprak, University of Manchester, Doctor of Philosophy, 21 September 2009Title: Civic Engagement in Europe: A Multilevel Study of the Effect of Individual and National Determinants on Political Participation, Political Consumerism and Associational Involvement. Active and engaged citizens are the backbone of a strong democracy and a vibrant civil society. Yet recent trends of low electoral turnout in Europe and decreasing levels of civic engagement have called into question the legitimacy of governments and the stability of democracy in the long term, particularly in Europe. Against the background of such developments this research sets out to provide a comparative study of civic engagement and analyse the variations in civic engagement between countries. The study is mainly based on the analysis of the European Social Survey 2002, covering 35,000 individuals from 19 European countries and applies advanced statistical modelling techniques including Multiple Correspondence Analysis MCA) and Multi-level modelling.Although there is a good deal of research examining civic engagement using individual level data or aggregate level data, very few studies have combined both approaches. This study addresses this gap and applies multi-level modelling to examine the relative importance of an individual’s socio-demographic characteristics and his/her country in determining levels and types of civic engagement. Thus, it has the advantage of identifying whether civic engagement is significantly affected by country characteristics or the converse, whether a person’s characteristics (age, education, social class etc.) are all that is needed in order to account for the variations in civic engagement. The innovative application of MCA to explore indicators of civic engagement has led to the identification of three dimensions of civic engagement; political activities, political consumerism and associational involvement. Moreover, by projecting all activities on a two-dimensional map it become evident that citizens who tend to carry out ‘individual’ types of political consumerism such as ‘buycotting’, boycotting and signing petitions are also more likely to be involved in New Social Movement organisations. These significant results shed new light on activities usually regarded as ‘individualistic’ type of activities and suggest viewing them in the context of a wider array of collective actions. Furthermore, in addition to the standard contextual measures such as economic development, welfare regime, income inequality, and levels of democracy, this study introduced two innovative policy measures. To consider the impact of government policies on levels of civic engagement measures of governments’ support of the voluntary sector and civic education at school (comparing the education policies of 19 European countries from 1945-2002) were developed. The results confirmed the importance of both individual level characteristics as well as country level characteristics in explaining civic engagement in Europe. However, differences between countries were reduced to a greater degree when contextual factors were introduced. Particularly the welfare state, showed the greatest effect. This implies that socio-economic conditions and in particular social policy and the degree to which it reproduces egalitarian structures determine to a great extent citizen involvement. In other words the results of this study suggest that the national context matters and that governments can and do shape the nature and levels of civic engagement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research
    Thesis sponsors
    Publisher
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Keywords

    • Comparative European Studies, civic engagement, political participation, civil society, multilevel modelling, multiple correspondence analysis, social capital

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