Jan W. van Deth, Martin Elff
Political Involvement and Apathy in Europe 1973 - 1998

Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 33
ISSN: 1437-8574

Many studies have underlined the existence of clear and persistent differences in the levels of political interest among European citizens. In this report these differences and developments in political involvement and political apathy are described and analysed, and conventional explanations in terms of socio-demographic characteristics of individuals (education, gender, age and date of birth) are reviewed. Although the general level of political involvement remains more or less stable, the level of political apathy declines in the last decades. Socio-demographic characteristics still count for differences in political interest, but their impact has declined in several countries since the early 1970s. Especially a waning of gender-related differences can be observed among the youngest cohorts, accounting at least partially for a decline in political apathy across Europe. This conclusion does not defy the observation of persistent and substantial cross-national differences in Europe. Besides, all results underline that political involvement and political apathy cannot be treated as simple complementary concepts.