ECPR Joint Sessions
University of Nottingham, Nottingham
25 - 30 April 2017




Health, Political Interest and Efficacy

Competence
 
Democracy
 
Political Engagement
 
Presenter
Lauri Rapeli
Åbo Akademi
Authors
Lauri Rapeli
Åbo Akademi
Mikko Mattila
University of Helsinki
Achillefs Papageorgiou
University of Helsinki

Abstract
Recently scholars of political behavior have turned to personal health in their search for new determinants of political action (Pacheco & Fletcher 2015). Most studies have focused on the most pivotal form of political action, voting. The findings show that turnout among people with poor health is about ten percentage points lower than among those with good health (e.g. Mattila et al. 2013; Denny & Doyle 2007). Research has shown also that the effect of poor health on political action is not always negative when it comes to other forms of political participation (Söderlund & Rapeli 2015; Mattila & Papageorgiou 2017).

We offer a twofold contribution to this growing literature. Firstly, instead of political participation, we look at how personal health affects cognitive engagement in politics, i.e., the extent to which people are psychologically attached to politics. Our focus is whether people remain motivated to follow politics and have a sense of self-efficacy, when their health declines. Interest in politics is a widely used indicator of motivation to follow politics (van Deth 1990), while efficacy is a measure of ability to grasp and make an impact in politics (Morrell 2003). Thus, the main research question in our Paper is: does a decline in personal health affect motivation and ability to engage in politics?

Secondly, instead of relying on cross-sectional survey data, we use panel data to assess causality. We use the British Household Panel Survey to go beyond existing analyses to study 1) whether there is a causal link between changes in personal health and interest and efficacy and 2) whether that link is negative or positive. The Panel data enables us to assess how changes in health over time affect citizens’ political engagement. We conclude by discussing both the theoretical and methodological implications of the findings.
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