Social Inequality in Political Participation: The Dark Sides of Individualisation

Schädel, Lisa; Armingeon, Klaus (2014). Social Inequality in Political Participation: The Dark Sides of Individualisation. West European politics, 38(1), pp. 1-27. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/01402382.2014.929341

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Has the participatory gap between social groups widened over the past decades? And if so, how can it be explained? Based on a re-analysis of 94 electoral surveys in eight Western European countries between 1956 and 2009, this article shows that the difference in national election turnout between the half of the population with the lowest level of education and the half with the highest has increased. It shows that individualisation – the decline of social integration and social control – is a major cause of this trend. In their electoral choices, citizens with fewer resources – in terms of education – rely more heavily on cues and social control of the social groups to which they belong. Once the ties to these groups loosen, these cues and mobilising norms are no longer as strong as they once were, resulting in an increasing abstention of the lower classes on Election Day. In contrast, citizens with abundant resources rely much less on cues and social control, and the process of individualisation impacts on their participatory behaviour to a much lesser extent. The article demonstrates this effect based on a re-analysis of five cumulative waves of the European Social Survey.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science

UniBE Contributor:

Armingeon, Klaus


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science




Taylor & Francis




Beatrice Romann

Date Deposited:

22 Oct 2014 08:58

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:37

Publisher DOI:





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