Current theories make contradictory predictions regarding the impact of economic context on political engagement. Social norm theory predicts political engagement will be highest in wealthy areas because residents respond to the expectations of their neighbors. Conflict theory predicts political engagement will be highest in middle-income areas because economic diversity is most diverse and competition for resources is highest. Conflict theory and social norm theory might both be true. For large areas such as cities, conflict theory makes more sense; while in small neighborhoods, social norm theory seems more sensible.
I surveyed residents in six communities in Albuquerque following three local elections. This data is used to test five hypotheses. First, I hypothesize that political engagement will increase with neighborhood income. Controlling for socioeconomic factors and political engagement, I assess the impact of economic context on political interest, media use, political discussion, political knowledge, and internal efficacy and political participation. Second, I hypothesize that the impact of economic context will be no different for local and national forms of political engagement. Third, the impact will be no different for social and individual forms of participation. Fourth, the impact will be stronger among residents with relatively high incomes compared to residents with relatively low incomes. And fifth, the impact of economic context will be stronger among residents with high community attachment compared to residents with low community attachment.
I find that economic context has a positive and direct impact on political interest, media use, political discussion and internal efficacy, but not political knowledge. The evidence indicates that neighborhood income must reach a minimum threshold to influence political engagement. Neighborhood income has only an indirect effect on one-to-one communication and group activities. Usually, economic context does not affect voting behavior, either directly or indirectly. However, this research suggests that economic context may provide a 'nudge' of direct pressure on citizens to vote when social expectations for voting are already particularly high.
The evidence is mixed, but suggestive, that economic context has a stronger influence for residents with relatively high incomes. There is no evidence that community attachment moderates the impact of economic context.
|School:||The University of New Mexico|
|School Location:||United States -- New Mexico|
|Source:||DAI-A 69/09, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Context, Discussion, Economic context, Environment, Internal efficacy, Media use, Neighborhood context, Participation, Political engagement|
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