Who Participates in Local Politics and Why

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Science  27 Oct 1961:
Vol. 134, Issue 3487, pp. 1340-1348
DOI: 10.1126/science.134.3487.1340


A survey of registered voters in New Haven in 1959 indicated that only a few citizens participate much in local affairs by any action other than voting, and that variations in participation are related to variations in resources, political confidence, alternative opportunities , and rewards. The more resources one has (income, education, occupational standing, social standing, and so on), the more one is likely to participate. However, because the number of better-off citizens is small, citizens with smaller resources generally outnumber the better-off citizens at every level of political participation. The more confident one is of his capacity to be effective in political matters, the more one participates actively in local affairs. This relationship tends to strengthen the influence of middle-class citizens and to weaken the influence of working-class citizens. The fewer the alternatives a citizen has to politics as a means to achieve hisd goals, the more likely he is to participate actively. Thus, in New Haven, Negroes are among the most active participants in local affairs. The greater the rewards a citizen receives or expects to receive from politics, the greater is his participation. Thus, the more "concerned" he is over politics, the greater is his participation. And the more "problems" he thinks the community is faced with, the greater is his participation likely to be.