Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 20, Issue 5

Mikael Persson, "Social network position mediates the effect of education on active political party membership," Party Politics, 20 (September, 2014), 724-739. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol20/issue5/ ]

First paragraph:
Research on participation in political parties has shown that active party members have generally had a substantially higher education than average citizens (e.g. Cross and Young, 2008; Scarrow and Gezgor, 2010; Whiteley, 2009, 2011).1 However, research in this area seldom problematizes the possible causal mechanisms linking education with active party membership, i.e. exactly why do the high-educated participate in political parties to a greater extent than the low-educated? According to the conventional view, education increases civic skills and cognitive capabilities, factors that in turn increase the likelihood of participation in political parties (Lewis-Beck et al., 2008; Verba et al., 1995). One of the major puzzles in political behaviour research is therefore why increased education at the aggregated level in Western countries has not resulted in a corresponding aggregate increase in levels of political party participation (Brody, 1978). powers to punish and reward legislators, for example through withholding re-selection and promising promotion or financial resources.

Table 1. Estimates from model 1.
Figure 1. Illustrations of the direct and indirect effects from models 1-5.
Table 2. Estimates from model 2.
Table 3. Estimates from model 3.
Table 4. Estimates from model 4.
Table 5. Estimates from model 5.
Table 6. Summary of results.

Last Paragraph:
(Second paragraph of Conclusion) This study moves beyond previous research by confirming the causal path proposed by NJS. It uses the best data available on social network position and analyses them with a more accurate technique than has previously been employed. However, all studies have their limitations and this is of course no exception. In this case, the problem is that this study is limited to one single country, Sweden, and one form of political participation, i.e. active political party membership. Further research is needed in order to evaluate whether the conclusions are generalizable to other forms of participation in other contexts. Moreover, as always in research drawing on cross-sectional data, there is a problem with possible reversed causality: not only education but also political activities are likely to affect social network position. Panel data are needed to establish the relative strength of these paths. Hence, this study brings some important insights to our knowledge of how the relationship between education and participation functions, yet the black box remains far from totally illuminated.

Last updated November 2014