It’s Not All About Resources: Explaining (or Not) the Instability of Individual-Level Political Participation Over Time

Joanne M. Miller, Kyle L. Saunders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

The dominant political science explanations of the causes of individual-level political participation converge on three sets of antecedents—resources/skills, recruitment, and political engagement. However, the overwhelming majority of the empirical tests of these antecedents rely on cross-sectional data, obscuring the fact that micro-level participation in the United States is more accurately characterized by instability rather than by stability. Using the American National Election Study and Jennings time-series data, we for the first time demonstrate the inability of traditionally examined antecedents to explain individual-level variation in political behavior over time. Finding extant theory inadequate in this regard, we propose a modification of participation theories that puts the concept of motivation in the foreground. We argue that a model that includes motivation may both pave the way for a better understanding of the variation in participation over time and suggest possible prescriptions to help alleviate representational biases at the individual level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-981
Number of pages39
JournalAmerican Politics Research
Volume44
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Keywords

  • Civic Voluntarism Model
  • behavioral instability
  • motivation
  • panel data
  • political participation
  • resource model

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