Political involvement and civic participation
Viegas, José Manuel Leite
Sociology ISCTE Lisboa, Portugal
CIES CIES - ISCTE Lisboa, Portugal
Several scholars and researchers note a cross-national pattern of political change within democratic institutions and in the relationship between citizens and such institutions. On the one hand, a significant political discontentment and an increasing feeling that the performance of political institutions, maxime government, does not serve the citizens' wishes and expectations, are noticed. On the other hand, there is empirical evidence that western democracies are facing changes in political attitudes and citizens' participation, towards a more transparent and participated decision making process.
Are the same changes occurring in Portugal? We endeavoured to answer this question in two steps.
To start with, we proposed an approach to the political involvement concept, by considering two dimensions: political interest and party attachment. In doing so, we defined four types of political involvement: the disaffected position (of those who do not have any interest in politics and do not feel attached to any political party), the supporter position (of those who do not have any interest in politics but feel attached to a political party), the critical position (of those who are interested in politics but do not feel attached to any political party), and the integrated position (of those who are interested in politics and feel attached to a political party).
Then, we described these four types of political involvement. In Portugal, as suggested by international research and literature, those in the disaffected position are less educated, young and elderly people who do not follow politics and rarely use the different kinds of political action. Those in the supporter position are similar to these but show a high level of electoral participation. Those in the critical position are the youngest and most educated, with high exposure to politics through media, who use the new kinds of political action - such as internet communication or product boycott for ethical or ideological reasons - more than any other group. Those in the integrated position tend to follow politics in the media and use conventional and protest action more than anyone else.