English title: Participation in general elections and socio-political integration in four post-socialist countries

Author(s): Peter Robert -

Language: English

Type: Conference paper/poster

Year: 2014

Abstract

The paper investigates mechanisms influencing political participation expressed by voting at the general national elections. In order to explore the role of broad socio-political integration in voting behavior, four explanatory mechanisms are considered at individual level: two indicators are developed representing political affiliations (institutional trust and political efficacy) and two indicators intend to reflect on social integration and social capital (interpersonal trust and social isolation). The research question is investigated in four formerly socialist countries with common historical and socio-political roots but still representing characteristically different cases for political behavior: Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. The analysis is carried out on the pooled file derived from the ESS data and taken from those rounds where these four countries have fielded the survey. Participation in the general elections, the dependent variable, is measured by ‘voting in the last election’ reported by the respondent. Since this is a ‘yes/no’ type of variable, logistic regression is the major analytical method in the paper and the probability of not voting is predicted. The explanatory indicators are prepared by using principal component analysis and involve political distrust (no trust in parliament, legal system, parties); having negative attitudes towards politics (uninterested, finding it too complicated); not trusting other people generally; and being socially excluded (low frequency of attending social activities, meetings other people). It is expected that the impact of political distrust and inefficacy on non-participation is mediated by social distrust and social isolation. Gender, age and level of education serve as control variables. Analysis is partly run on the individual country data, partly on a pooled file where interaction terms are added to test the variation of effect of the main predictors by demographics, countries and time (survey rounds). Data reveal that voter turnout is the lowest in Poland and the highest in Hungary. Political distrust and inefficacy have stronger impact on participation as compared to the other two explanatory measures. While both institutional distrust and political inefficiency increased the probability of abstention, the expected role of the other two explanatory mechanisms related to social integration in affecting voting at the general elections found only partial confirmation. The demographic features contribute markedly to the role of the explanatory mechanisms. Country differences are limited, though Hungary and Poland deviate quite a bit. Hungary stands out with a strong effect of political inefficacy and a moderate effect of institutional distrust, while interpersonal distrust has an independent impact on abstention only in Poland. Similarly, social isolation also has the strongest influence on not voting in Poland. Slovenia and Slovakia take a place in between Hungary and Poland in terms of the influence of socio-political mechanisms on voting. Temporal variation does not appear according to the data but this can be explained by the fact that ESS covers a relatively short period from 2002 onwards.

Conference name: 67th Annual Conference of The World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR)

Location: Nice

Start date: Sep 4, 2014

Type: Paper

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