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William Cross and Lisa Young, "Factors Influencing the Decision of the Young Politically Engaged to Join a Political Party: An Investigation of the Canadian Case," Party Politics, 14 (May, 2008), 345-369.

First paragraph:
A large number of recent studies conclude that membership in Western political parties is generally in decline (Mair and van Biezen, 2001; Pedersen et al., 2004; Scarrow, 2000; Seyd and Whiteley, 2004; Webb et al., 2002). Party scholars argue that this trend raises questions about the continued effectiveness of parties as bridges between civil society and government. With their membership numbers declining, parties risk becoming increasingly detached from the voters they are meant to represent. Seyd and Whiteley (2004) suggest that the roles members have traditionally played as 'ambassadors' of the party in their community and their function as political communicators between civil society and the political party leadership are jeopardized by their declining numbers.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Respondents' political socialization (percentages and Ns reported)
Table 2. Mean scores for media usage and internet reliance (mean, standard deviation and N, reported)
Table 3. Mean factor scores (higher scores reflect more positive attitude towards political parties) (Ns)
Table 4. Respondents' views on how parties fulfil their general democratic responsibilities (percentages and Ns reported)
Table 5. Respondents' views regarding the efficacy of political parties in effecting social and policy change (percentages and Ns reported)
Table 6. Respondents' views towards party democracy (percentages and Ns reported)
Table 7. Party members' and non-members' perceptions of the effectiveness of various tactics (rank order of how frequently the action was deemed 'very effective')
Table 8. Non-party members' perceptions of participatory opportunities in both political parties generally and in the advocacy group they were captured in (percentages and Ns reported)
Table 9. Determinants of party membership: results of logistic regression analysis
Appendix. Rotated component matrix(a)

Next to last paragraph of conclusion:
Our findings suggest that the young people who choose to join political parties are a distinctive group. Many were exposed to partisan activity as children through their parents' activism, and most enjoyed greater exposure to other forms of political information than their counterparts in the mass electorate. The 'pull' of family socialization serves to overcome the more general societal 'push' away from partisan activism.6 Perhaps because of their familial exposure, these individuals are more favourably predisposed towards political parties than are their activist counterparts who choose not to join parties. They perceive parties to be more effective in achieving policy change, and they perceive party membership to be a reasonably effective way to influence party policy. In this regard, the young party members stand in sharp contrast to their non-member counterparts who are more sceptical about the effectiveness both of parties within the political system, and of members within parties. In addition to these findings, it is possible, considering the work of Inglehart and Nevitte referenced at the outset, that there are fundamental value differences separating these two cohorts of engaged young Canadians. As suggested in this literature, advocacy groups might be more appealing than parties to those with 'post-material' values. Our data do not let us address this directly, but our findings are not inconsistent with this hypothesis. Our party members are more dependent on traditional news sources, are largely mobilized to political action through their family and are more likely to have learned about the political system in their formal education.

Last updated July 2008