Political Dissatisfactions and Citizen Involvement: Political Participation in Europe during the Early Stages of the Economic Crisis


This article examines the links between three kinds of political dissatisfaction and four types of political participation during the early stages of the economic crisis in 2008-2009. Since economic crisis exacerbates negative political attitudes and thereby strains the legitimacy of the political system, it is im-portant to examine how citizens convey their grievances to political decision makers during such crisis. Recent decades have witnessed changes in patterns of political participation entailing that citizens abstain from traditional political participation in favor of non-institutionalized activities, but the implications for democracy are disputed since it is unclear what drives non-institutionalized participation. To ascertain what the changes mean for democracy during times of economic crisis, it is helpful to distinguish different kinds of political dissatisfaction with diverse implications for democracy. The data comes from the fourth round of the European Social Survey and include a total of 47489 respondents in 25 European democracies. The results suggest that only some kinds of political dissatisfaction affect the pro-pensity for political participation while others lead to passivity. Additionally, political dissatisfaction is not necessarily a major driving force behind the popularity of non-institutionalized participation since satisfied citizens are also involved in these.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v9i1p19

Keywords: Democracy; Economic crisis; Political disenchantment; Political dissatisfaction; Political participation


Abdelzadeh, A., J. Ekman (2012), “Understanding Critical Citizenship and Other Forms of Public Dissatisfaction: An Alternative Framework”, Politics, Culture and Socialization, 3(1-2): 177-194.

Almond, G.A., S. Verba (1963), The Civic Culture – Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company.

Amnå, E., J. Ekman (2014), “Standby Citizens: Diverse Faces of Political Passivity”, European Political Science Review 6(2): 261-281.

Armingeon, K., K. Guthmann (2014), “Democracy in Crisis? The Declining Support for National Democracy in European Countries, 2007–2011”, European Journal of Political Research, 53(3): 1475-6765.

Barnes, S.; Kaase, M. et al. (1979), Political Action: Mass Participation in Five Western Democracies, Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

Christensen, H.S. (2013) “Institutional Incentives for Participation in Elections and Between Elections”, in P. Esaiasson and H.M. Narud (eds), Between Election Democracy - The Representative Relationship After Election Day, Colchester: ECPR Press, pp. 103-126.

Christensen, H.S. (2014), “All the same? Examining the Link Between Kinds of Political Dissatisfaction and Protest’, Comparative European Politics, advance online publication, 8 December 2014: doi:10.1057/cep.2014.52.

Crozier, M., S.P. Huntington and J. Watanuki (1975), The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York: New York University Press.

Dalton, R.J. (2004), Democratic Challenges, Democratic Choices – The Erosion of Political Support in Advanced Industrial Democracies, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dalton, R.J. and C. Welzel (eds.) (2014), The Civic Culture Transformed, New York: Cambridge University Press.

della Porta, D. and A. Mattoni (2014), Spreading Protest: Social Movements in Times of Crisis, Colchester: ECPR Press.

Denk, T., H.S. Christensen, and D. Bergh (2015) “The Composition of Political Culture—A Study of 25 European Democracies”, Studies in Comparative International Development, 50(3): 358-377.

Easton, D. (1965), A Systems Analysis of Political Life, New York: Wiley.

Esaiasson, P., H.M. Narud (eds) (2013), Between Election Democracy - The Representative Relationship After Election Day, Colchester: ECPR Press.

European Social Survey (ESS)4 (2008), Data file edition 4.0, Norwegian Social Science Data Services, Norway – Data Archive and distributor of ESS data.

Gamson, W.A. (1968), Power and Discontent, Homewood: Dorsey Press.

Geissel, B. (2008), “Reflections and Findings on the Critical Citizens: Civic Education – What for?”, European Journal of Political Research, 47(1): 34-63.

Hardin, R. (1999), “Do we Want Trust in Government?”, in: M.E. Warren (ed.), Democracy & Trust, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 22-41.

Hay, C. (2007), Why We Hate Politics, Cambridge: Polity.

Hibbing, J.R., E. Theiss-Morse (2002), Stealth Democracy – Americans’ Beliefs about how Government Should Work, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hooghe, M., S. Marien (2013), “A Comparative Analysis of the Relation Between Political Trust and Forms of Political Participation in Europe”, European Societies, 15(1): 131-152.

Hooghe, M., S. Marien (2014), “How to Reach Members of Parliament? Citizens and Members of Parliament on the Effectiveness of Political Participation Repertoires”, Parliamentary Affairs, 67(3): 536-560.

Hutter, S. (2014), Protesting Culture and Economics in Western Europe – New Cleavages in Left and Right Politics, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Inglehart, R. (1997), Modernization and Postmodernization – Cultural, Economic, and Political Chance in 43 Societies, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Jankowski, T.B., J.M. Strate (1995), “Modes of Participation over the Adult Life Span”, Political Behaviour, 17(1): 89-106.

Kaase, M. (1999), “Interpersonal Trust, Political Trust and Non-Institutionalised Political Participation in Western Europe”, West European Politics, 22(3): 1–21.

Leckie, G., C. Charlton (2013), “runmlwin - A Program to Run the MLwiN Multilevel Modelling Software from within Stata”, Journal of Statistical Software, 52(11): 1-40.

Mair, P. (2006), “Ruling the Void? The Hollowing of Western Democracy”, New Left Review, 42(November-December): 25-51.

Marien, S., H.S. Christensen (2013) “Trust and Openness: Prerequisites for Democratic Engagement?”, in K.N. Demetriou, (Ed.), Democracy in Transition − Political Participation in the European Union, Berlin: Springer, pp. 109-134.

Micheletti, M. (2003), Political Virtue and Shopping: Individuals, Consumerism, and Collective Action, New York: Palgrave.

Micheletti, M., A. McFarland (eds.) (2011), Creative Participation: Responsibility-taking in the Political World, Boulder, Colorado: Paradigm Publishers.

Mudde, C. (2007), Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Norris, P. (ed.) (1999), Critical Citizens – Global Support for Democratic Government, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Norris, P. (2002), Democratic Phoenix – Reinventing Political Activism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Norris, P., S. Walgrave and P. Van Aelst (2006) “Does Protest Signify Disaffection”, in M. Torcal and J.R. Montero (eds.), Political Disaffection in Contemporary Democracies, London: Routledge, pp. 279-307.

Parry, G., G. Moyser, G. and N. Day (1992) Political Participation and Democracy in Britain, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rosanvallon, P. (2008), Counter-Democracy – Politics in the Age of Distrust, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stoker, G. (2006), Why Politics Matters – Making Democracy Work, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Stolle, D., M. Hooghe and M. Micheletti (2005). “Politics in the Supermarket: Political Consumerism as a Form of Political Participation”, International Political Science Review, 26(3): 245-269.

Teorell, J., M. Torcal, and J.R. Montero (2007), ‘Political Participation: Mapping the Terrain’, in J. van Deth, J.R. Montero and A. Westholm (eds), Citizenship and Involvement in European Democracies: A Comparative Perspective, London & New York: Routledge, pp. 334-357.

Torcal, M. (2011), ‘Dissatisfaction, Political’, in B. Badie, D. Berg-Schlosser and L. Molino (eds.), International Encyclopedia of Political Science vol. 3, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp.689-692.

Torcal, M. and J.R. Montero (2006) (eds.), Political Disaffection in Contemporary Democracies, London: Routledge.

van Deth, J. (2014), “A Conceptual Map of Political Participation”, Acta Politica, 49(3): 349–367.

Verba, S., N. H. Nie and J.-O. Kim (1971), The Modes of Democratic Participation: A Cross-National Analysis, Beverly Hills: Sage.

Verba, S., K.L. Schlozman and H.E. Brady (1995), Voice and Equality – Civic Voluntarism in American Politics, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

White, J., L. Ypi (2010), “Rethinking the Modern Prince: Partisanship and the Democratic Ethos”, Political Studies, 58(4): 809–828.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.