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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Subjective Well-Being and the Politically Active Citizen: A Comparative European Study

Political Participation
Political Psychology
Political Sociology
Comparative Perspective
Annika Lindholm
Université de Lausanne
Annika Lindholm
Université de Lausanne
Georg Lutz
Université de Lausanne

It is increasingly recognized that health and well-being positively influence political participation. The mechanism that links well-being to participation relates to the availability of resources: paying attention to political issues requires resources, which can be more scarce among those suffering from poor health and ill-being. Considering that subjective well-being is an integral part of personal health, indicators of well-being, such as happiness and life satisfaction, vitality, and absence of anxiety, could increase the likelihood of participation in elections and extra-electoral political activities. Despite its potential, subjective well-being has so far been underexplored as a determinant of political participation. Meanwhile, better understanding the impact of well-being on political participation could further explain why inequalities in participation persist, and teach politicians lessons on how to maximise voters’ well-being in view of increasing their support.

This Paper aims to contribute to the emerging field of research on health and political behaviour by examining the association between subjective well-being and political participation. We will use measures of experienced, emotional and eudaimonic well-being to investigate the influence of well-being on political activity. By taking a comparative approach and using cross-sectional survey data provided by the European Social Survey, our study sheds light on the following: how do emotional, evaluative and eudaimonic well-being affect political activity, across various forms of participation in selected European countries? We hypothesize that the relationship between subjective well-being and political participation is curvilinear: after an initial increase, the positive effect wears off at the highest levels of well-being. We also expect to find cross-country variation in the results due to cultural and institutional factors, which can influence the effect of well-being on participation. The data suggests that subjective well-being can significantly influence political activity, and should be paid more attention to in future research on health and political behaviour.
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