Ellen Quintelier, Jan W. van Deth
Supporting Democracy: Political Participation and Political Attitudes. Exploring Causality Using Panel Data

Political Studies, 2014: 62 (S1), S. 153-171
ISSN: 1467-9248

The relationship between political participation and political attitudes is at the heart of any discussion about fostering democratic engagement. However, many authors simply presume that political attitudes reinforce political behaviour. Using a three-wave panel data set with more than 3,000 adolescents, we show that political attitudes do not necessarily precede behaviour. On the contrary, focusing on the relationships between five political attitudes and two variants of political participation, our findings indicate that it is much more likely that political participation strengthens political attitudes than that attitudes trigger participation. This does not mean that attitudes are irrelevant for behaviour, but the reverse impact is much stronger. More specifically, we find that the effects of being politically engaged on political interest, efficacy, confidence and norms of citizenship are clearly stronger than the effects of these attitudes on participation.