Julia Partheymüller, Rüdiger Schmitt-Beck
A “Social Logic” of Demobilization: The Influence of Political Discussants on Electoral Participation at the 2009 German Federal Election

Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, 2012: 22, issue 2, p. 457-478

Past research has tended to view citizens' everyday political discussions as inherently favorable to electoral participation. This article proposes a contrasting perspective by identifying conditions under which citizens' integration in social networks can lead to abstention. Using the data of a pre-post panel survey from the 2009 German Longitudinal Election Study, we find that besides the “social logic” of mobilization there is also a “social logic” of demobilization. Non-voting is contagious, particularly when it takes place in groups characterized by “strong ties” and occurs in conjunction with frequent political discussions with non-voters who are considered political experts. Our findings challenge the prevailing orthodoxy about the value of social interaction for improving the quality democracy by showing that under certain circumstances it may turn citizens off electoral politics.