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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Sources of Political Disenchantment – A Multilevel Analysis


This paper examines what factors help explain the occurrence of political disenchantment. Previous research suggests that citizens have become more negative in their evaluations of the political system in many democracies (Klingemann, 1999; Dalton, 1999; Stoker, 2006). The literature on political attitudes has offered a multitude of social and political explanations at different levels of analysis to account for this development (Norris, 1999; Pharr and Putnam, 2000; Torcal and Montero, 2006). Nevertheless, previous research generally fails to distinguish a healthy critical attitude (Norris 1999; Rosanvallon, 2008) from an unhealthy political disenchantment (Stoker 2006; Hay 2007). It cannot be taken for granted that the same factors that explain a healthy critical attitude can also account for the harmful political disenchantment and there is still a need to examine what factors account for the increase in political disenchantment at different levels of explanation interact to produce rising levels of disenchantment. This involves examining the interplay between different levels of analysis, since previous literature suggests that contextual factors such as economic performance and institutional factors help explain political attitudes (Freitag and Bühlmann, 2009; Aarts and Thomassen, 2008; Karp and Banducci, 2007). It is therefore of particular importance to examine whether the same mechanisms operate under different conditions. The aim of the current study is twofold. The first aim is to present a typology that makes it possible to distinguish a healthy critical attitude from an unhealthy political disenchantment. Following this, it is examined what individual and contextual factors that help explain feelings of political disenchantment at the individual level. The data used for this is round 1-4 the European Social Survey (ESS).
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