In this contribution we demonstrate how the usage of panel data offers possibilities for testing new hypotheses in a research tradition with a long history in political science. Focusing on citizens’ transitions in and out of voluntary associations, we tested four possible explanations for the well-documented correlation between civic engagement and political socialization. Two are due to self-selection effects (pools of democracy), and two are due to socialization effects (schools of democracy). Our analyses offer little support for the idea of voluntary associations playing a major role in political socialization processes: our latent growth curve models showed no or very little increase of political discussion, interest, efficacy, and action among those who became actively involved in voluntary associations. In contrast, we found convincing evidence for our pools-of-democracy hypotheses, and the self-selection turns out to be a double-edged sword: politically engaged citizens are more likely to join voluntary associations and less likely to leave them. These findings challenge the conclusions of many studies based on cross-sectional data.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 22, 2015
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