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Chapter

Cover Democratization

13. Conventional Citizen Participation  

Ian McAllister and Stephen White

This chapter examines the most visible and politically important act of conventional citizen participation: turning out to vote in a national election. Patterns of political participation are influenced by a variety of institutional factors, such as the type of electoral system and the number of political parties in a country, along with individual socioeconomic factors such as a person’s educational attainments or income. A particular problem in many previously authoritarian societies is the absence of a diverse civil society, so that the social trust upon which a healthy democracy depends is often absent. The chapter first considers various dimensions of political participation before discussing voter turnout in democratic countries. It then analyses the effects of institutional arrangements such as election rules, the type of electoral system, and the party system on political participation. Finally, it describes some of the factors that determine whether or not citizens participate in politics.