POLITICAL PARTICIPATION —MEANING, FORMS AND FACTORS AFFECTING POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

Every political and social system requires the active participation of people to function effectively.

Political participation can be defined as the act of influencing policy through voting, protesting, political parties and other interest groups.

It refers to taking part in and being part of the political activities of a country or institution.

Political participation essentially means that citizens have their say in the policy making of their country.

That is, people can influence the holders of power as well as the decisions, actions, and policies taken by those in power.

Political participation may also refer to the activity of taking part in the political and public affairs of a country.

It also connotes all activities which have a political bearing on the governance of a state.

Forms Of Political Participation

Political participation may be in the form of voting in elections, supporting a political party, identifying with a particular pressure group, participating in town meetings or directly communicating with political leaders of a country.

1. Voting: This is one of the most important aspects of political participation in democracy.

Voting is a form of political participation

In voting, individuals who have attained the universal age (which is 18 or 21 years in some countries) can select the preferred candidates through the poll.

Voting is one of the most common ways in which people participate in the politics of their country.

Through voting, citizens select their political leaders who will take affairs of the activities of the state for a set period.

2. Canvassing or otherwise campaigning in elections: Political participation can also take the form of election campaigns, which is the means through which candidates of political parties present their ideas to voters.

Voters can also use word-of-mouth and other forms of publicity to canvass votes for their favourite candidates.

3. Active membership in political parties: Political parties are an important part of almost every political system.

A political party is a group of people who share common interests, and aim to obtain political power.

Active membership in a political party can take the form of running for office, rallying support for party candidates, and participating in party primaries, among other things.

4. Active membership in pressure group: A pressure group is an interest group which seeks to influence government policies in the best interest of its members.

Pressure groups allow individuals to participate in the politics of their country by attempting to influence public policy in the interest of the individuals.

Lobbying, lawsuits, and, of course, strikes are all methods used by pressure groups to achieve their objectives.

5. Town hall meetings: This is another means through which people participate in the politics of their countries.

Town hall meetings are open to the public and allow lawmakers to hear from their constituents about a certain policy.

A town meeting can be general, in which people can ask the politician questions about any public issue, or specific, in which people can only ask the politician questions about a specific public issue.

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Factors Influencing Political Participation

Factors affecting political participation can be divided into three: Psychological factors, Political factors, and social factors.

Psychological factors

Voting and other forms of political participation allow people to express their frustrations, sympathies, likes, and dislikes for a particular government.

Individuals feel a sense of responsibility when participating in the political activities of their countries.

Moreover, being a candidate for a political party brings with it a sense of greater responsibility and self-image.

Social factors

Social factors like education, occupation, sex and age can influence political participation.

1. Education: The more educated and politically informed a person is, the higher their ability to transmit their political values and culture to their children and their neighbourhood.

Individuals can also advocate for better governance (via voting and other types of political participation) if he is well informed about the political activity of their country.

2. Occupation: Sometimes, Occupation also influences political participation.

To illustrate, a lawyer is more likely to participate in politics than a farmer.

3. Sex: Various studies have revealed that men participate in politics more than women.

In most countries, holders of elective positions are usually male.

However, women's participation in politics has increased as a result of renewed calls for equal gender participation.

4. Urban dwellers vs rural dwellers: Urban dwellers generally participate in politics more than rural dwellers because of their exposure to mass media, higher education and improved conditions.

All of this ensures that urban dwellers have a better understanding of the political affairs of the country than rural dwellers.

Political factors

The political context in which a person finds himself, as well as the type of political information he or she receives, has a significant impact on his or her political participation.

1. Ease of voting: The easier it is for people to vote for the candidate of their choice, the higher the political participation.

The reverse is also true. There will be less political participation of citizens as they find it very difficult to participate in political elections.

2. Crisis: Political crises often increase citizens' participation in the political activities of their countries.

This is because political crises affect the majority of a country's inhabitants, who may regard political participation as a way to resolve the problem.

3. Activities of political parties: Political parties played an important role in increasing the rate of political participation in a country.

Political parties generally encourage members to actively participate in the politics of the government.

They provide necessary political orientations and education to their members in a bid to convince them to actively participate in the politics of the country

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4. Citizens' perceptions of the electoral system: If citizens believe the electoral system is corrupt and rife with gross electoral malpractice, they may be hesitant to participate in politics, believing it to be a waste of time.

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