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Political Behaviour: introductory course

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Some concepts related to the study of political behaviour[edit | edit source]

These are similar concepts that are related to the study of political behaviour or political behaviour because there is not only one type of political behaviour and several ways of behaving in politics :

  • political participation/abstentionism ;
  • political commitment;
  • election/voting (voting behavior);
  • opinion/attitude/values;
  • political socialization: this is a key term and a concept at the heart of some explanations of voting behavior or social movements;
  • public opinion;
  • political parties/partisan competition;
  • political institutions;
  • interest in politics: it's a key concept;
  • political competence: it's a concept operationalized somewhat differently by different authors;
  • political sophistication: many theories emphasize that people who are more politically literate are more likely to participate.
  • partisan identification: this is a central theory referring to the Michigan model;
  • collective action/social movements;
  • political influence: focuses on output behavior;
  • decision-making processes;
  • democracy.

Definition[edit | edit source]

Political behaviour[edit | edit source]

There are several definitions as for every concept in social sciences. Sometimes there is some consensus around a widely shared definition while for other concepts there is much less consensus and competition between different definitions. For electoral behaviour, there is a relatively broad consensus. On the other hand, for non-electoral behaviour, there is less consensus. These are two areas that have hardly ever spoken to each other. Attempts are being made to define the concepts that would apply to both areas.

With regard to the concept of political behaviour, there is a broad definition, which is that political behaviour is all activities aimed at influencing the distribution of resources and power within a society. This includes aspects other than actions such as opinions, attitudes or beliefs.

Political participation[edit | edit source]

Milbrath proposes as a definition to characterize political participation which is "actions by private citizens through which they try to influence or support government and politics".[8] There is both a notion of trying to have an effect on political elites, but there are also supporting activities.

Other authors such as Verba exclude supportive activities while others exclude non-conventional participation. Others focus on the relational aspect with interactions between political authorities and citizens such as Barnes and Kaase.[9]

Voting behaviour[edit | edit source]

It is a participation that takes place in the context of elections, including free and competitive elections. This notion takes on meaning in democratic contexts. Voting behaviour is behaviour that is regulated and institutionalized by the state being more punctual and occurring at predefined times.

In Switzerland, an important distinction must be made between voting and election. We will see, when we analyse the factors explaining these behaviours, that the factors are not always used to explain both types of behaviour.

Three types of behaviour[edit | edit source]

This graph summarizes the three types of political behaviour. Voter participation is one type of political participation and political participation is a subset of something broader that can be defined as political behaviour including, among other things, voting orientation.

Comportement politique trois type de comportements 1.png

Action collective[edit | edit source]

It is a concept used in different fields in quite different ways. Collective action is group leadership that uses collective resources to defend common interests. A broad definition is that collective action is any action organized by more than two people. Narrower definitions emphasize that collective action is discontinuous and confrontational action, i.e., action that takes place in the context of social or political conflict.

Protest Policy[edit | edit source]

In Dynamics of Contention published in 2003, McAdam, Tarrow and Tilly define protest politics as a collective, episodic and public interaction between claimants and their objects.[10] These authors have introduced other dimensions, namely that at least one government is involved in the claims as an author, object or party. If realized, the claims affect the interests of at least one of the claimants. We speak of collective action to the extent that if carried out, the collective action affects the interests of certain actors, not only the authors of the claims, but also the objects of the claims. For example, these are social movements, revolts, rebellions, terrorism, civil war or revolutions.

Social movements[edit | edit source]

There is not really a consensus in the scientific literature. There is a substantialist definition which is that social movements are disadvantaged groups, i.e. groups that do not have access to institutional channels and mobilize to defend common interests through unconventional actions. A relational definition defines social movements as challenges to authorities based on common goals and shared social solidarities.

Three types of non-conventional behaviour[edit | edit source]

Comportement politique trois type de comportements non conventionnels 1.png

Political behaviour in the social sciences[edit | edit source]

Comportement politique comportement politique dans les sciences sociales 1.png

The study of political behaviour is not only a political science, but can be seen as something transdisciplinary, particularly in sociology, sociopsychology and economics. Together, these disciplines can shed light on the study of political behaviour.

Political behaviour can be studied from different angles. There can be different approaches, including normative and prescriptive approaches to what constitutes good political behaviour. There have been theorists who have moved in this direction. The idea is to try to identify the explanatory factors that explain and understand why citizens engage in politics or do not engage, or engage in certain types of political behaviour. Beforehand, a number of conceptual milestones need to be established with the different theories, whether electoral or non-electoral.

Some questions[edit | edit source]

Any answer in social sciences and science is an interim answer:

  • why do some people vote and some people don't?
  • why do people vote for different parties?
  • why do some people participate in social movements and others do not?
  • what is the impact of social background on political behaviour?
  • what is the impact of values on political behaviour?
  • how rational is political behaviour?
  • to what extent is political behaviour influenced by context?
  • how have the patterns of political participation changed over time?

Model of political behaviour[edit | edit source]

Comportement politique modèle de comportement politique 1.png

What we want to identify and explain is political behaviour in its different forms and this or these political behaviours are influenced by three types of factors based at different levels. Both the structural context and the cultural context play an important role at the macro level. At the meso level are the dynamic social networks of groups and ultimately the choices and preferences of individuals. The idea is that there is an interweaving of these factors. If we take these factors and deal with them all at the individual level, it structures the course because we are going to look first at the notion of cleavage and its different translation influencing political behaviour.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Marco Giugni - UNIGE
  2. Marco Giugni - Google Scholar
  3. Marco Giugni - Researchgate.net
  4. Marco Giugni - Cairn.info
  5. Marco Giugni - Protest Survey
  6. Marco Giugni - EPFL Press
  7. Marco Giugni - Bibliothèque Nationale de France
  8. Milbrath, Lester W., and Madan L. Goel. Political participation : how and why do people get involved in politics. Chicago: Rand McNally College Pub. Co, 1977. Print.
  9. Barnes, Samuel H., and Max Kaase. Political action: mass participation in five Western democracies. Beverly Hills, Calif: Sage Publications, 1979. Print.
  10. Mcadam, D., Tarrow, S., & Tilly, C. (2003). Dynamics of Contention. Social Movement Studies, 2(1), 99–102. https://doi.org/10.1080/14742837.2003.10035370