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Main author(s): Tobias Escher, Sabrina Schöttle

Review needed!


Participation is a broad term which ist mostly referred to participation in political contexts, but not solely. Some authors and studies (e.g.

Missing Reference) understand "participation" as gaining information about a political topic or the communication about a political issue, whilst others (e.g.

Missing Reference) use a narrower definition and refer to activities which people undertake to directly or indirectly influence political actors and/or political decision making processes. Political particpation includes formal and informal, binding and non-binding, organized and individual acts of participation.

In the context of online participation within this Wiki, participation refers to the acts of people to whom the participatory process is addressed. Do they participate at all, how many participate, who participates? (see also Category:Inclusion).

It is debatetable whether "Online-Participation" (see Category: Online Participation) can be seen as a new, genuine form of participation or whether the Internet is only a new channel for already existing forms of participation (see e.g. Kersting

Missing Reference)

Theories and Results

In evaluations of online participation or participatory processes more generally, this is often a main criterion. While the success of a participation process should not solely be judged in terms of numbers of participants, it is usually difficult to argue that a process in which no one participates qualifies as participation.

Political participation

The most prominent strand of literature that focuses on participation derives from Political Science research (for a good introduction see (see J van Deth, 2006)). In this context, political participation is generally assumed to be all activities that citizens undertake voluntarily in order to influence politics and political decisions and those responsible for them. A classic definition is Barnes und Kaase (1979): Alle Tätigkeiten, „die Bürger freiwillig mit dem Ziel unternehmen, Entscheidungen auf den verschiedenen Ebenen des politischen Systems zu beeinflussen“ (Kaase 1995: 521).

Other definitions:

  • Political Participation refers to structures of social trading and behaviour has to be investigated on different analytical levels, (micro, macro, meso) (Steinbrecher 2009: 56).
  • Political Participation could also be seen as an individual act of social engagement. For this reason, most of the sociological studies on this topic focus on micro-analysis and analysis on data on public opinion.
  • Another definition of political commitment: Gabriel et al. (2002): This definition includes attitudes and tradements, on the one hand political interests and on the other hand political behaviour like voting or informal political engagement like signing a petition.

Arguments for political participation

There are two main strands in literature arguing why, what kind and to what extent political particpation is relevant in democracies: Liberal theorists argue that voting is the most important form of participation: people should choose their representatives. Beyond elections, participation is not necessary because it is the duty of the elected to make decisions on the behalf of the people. From this perspective, participation is important to provide legitimation for the representative system and its institutions.

In contrast, advocates of participatory democracy demand much more participation in a quantitative and qualitative way: As much people as possible should be as active as possible in political decision making processes. They consider participation as a value of itself.(see Barber, Pateman, ...)

Some research to show that there are indeed positive effects through participation.

Determinants of political participation

There is widespread research examining what factors influence whether individuals decide to participate in acts of political participation. One example is the Civic Voluntarism Framework by Verba et al. which postulates that three types of factors influence the decision to participate:

  1. resources (e.g. education, time, money)
  2. motivation (e.g. political interest, being affected by an issue)
  3. networks (e.g. integration in social networks that act to mobilise)


From numerous surveys into political participation, there are various established survey items measuring e.g.

  • what activities citizens engage in
  • how often
  • whether they would consider engaging in them

Examples include the European Social Survey, the ALLBUS, the ISSP, the World Values Survey, the various Barometers, ...


This category has only the following subcategory.


Pages in category "Participation"

The following 74 pages are in this category, out of 74 total.