These results were obtained by analysing data from the European Social Survey (ESS) Round 8, aiming to identify trends and determinants of political efficacy in Europe. The ESS is one of the important pan-European surveys for exploring political attitudes, including political efficacy. This data source is well-known for its excellence in cross-cultural methodology allowing for rigorous cross-country comparisons.
The authors of the study are Professor Eglė Butkevičienė and Dr Vaidas Morkevičius. The results are connected to the research process the group is carrying out for the H2020 project DEMOS.
Political efficacy has two sides – internal and external. Internal political efficacy deals with citizens’ beliefs that they have competences to understand and effectively participate in politics. And external political efficacy is related to public perceptions of responsiveness of governmental institutions.
“It has been found that political efficacy correlates with political participation and, more generally, with the quality of governance in democratic politics around the world. Low political efficacy means that citizens distrust governmental institutions and do not believe that their actions will have an effect on governance. Therefore, low political efficacy is related to political alienation, which is detrimental to the health of the democratic political system”, explain the scientists.
The analysis of trends of political efficacy across countries included into the ESS Round 8 showed that people from Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden and Germany are among those who express highest levels of political efficacy, while residents of Lithuania, Russia, Italy, Slovenia and Estonia are among those who show the lowest levels of political efficacy.
According to the researchers, the citizens’ perception of their competences to effectively participate in politics are influenced by both socio-economic and individual factors. On the individual level, political efficacy is higher for the male with higher education who reside in big cities, are single, do not have children, are not retired, have higher household income, belong to higher social class.
On the socio-economic level, political efficacy is higher in more economically affluent and equal societies. Also, people in countries with stronger democratic institutions showed higher levels of political efficacy.
“Since low political efficacy leads to political alienation which may encourage various protest behaviours, political efficacy may be one of the important factors shaping populist attitudes and voting”, state the scientists.
They suggest to further study the links between political efficacy and populism, as this seems to be a promising and important research direction.
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