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Citizen Activity: Who participates? What do they say?

The authors of this article used the same survey devised and conducted by Wolfinger and Rosenstone in 1980. The premise was to conduct a large-scale survey to determine the extent of participation and public representation by political activists as a whole. Through the samples collected only one difference was observed between the voters and the non-voters, the difference being their demographics. The responses recorded did not present any significant data that would separate the voters from the non-voters and activists from the non-activists. There are many ways that the citizens can communicate their concerns and influence the policymakers to make changes in the public interest. However; it is imperative to understand who is participating in these political movements and the goals they are trying to achieve through their efforts. The policymakers should try to understand the concerns and opinions the citizens are trying to present in hopes of making a better future for themselves.

Through this survey, it was observed that the attitudes of voters were no different from the non-voter and in the same scenario; activists were no different than the non-activists despite; the difference in demographics. Demographics play a huge role in the eyes of the policy-makers despite the similar attitude of the citizens, however; due to this, only a few concerns of the public get attention from the self-interested politicians as the representation is limited. The disadvantaged groups due to inactivity are not able to get their concerns across.

The survey identified four groups of individuals that were actively participating in political campaigns and voting. The first group of people shared similar traits as their socio-economic status was better and they had political awareness. Individuals that considered themselves as a part of a political party and believed strongly in the ideology of the said party; participated more to show their support. People facing financial hardships showed more involvement as they hoped to change the system to change their situation. The last group comprised of the people that received benefits from the government in the form of food stamps and house subsidies etc. This group was more active than those receiving non-means-tested benefits like veteran’s benefit and student’s loan etc. The data collected showed varying degrees of participation from the citizens in voluntary campaigns.

Other than identifying the different groups of activists, the authors also sought out the level of activity from each group. Advantaged groups were more active as compared to people with fewer means. However; it also meant that the most active group did not understand the struggles of the less fortunate as the issues discussed by them did not consider the basic needs of the common people (Verba et al. 1993). The article presents the data that informs the readers about the reasons why the right steps are not being taken by the government. It is now quite clear that correct decisions are not being made because actual issues are not being properly represented. Activists talk about the broader problems that do not benefit the needs of the general public thus they do not receive proper representation. Their basic needs always have to take a back seat as the problems that get attention from the politicians are the ones that would help in improving the image of the politicians.


Verba, Sidney, Kay Lehman Schlozman, Henry Brady, and Norman H. Nie. 1993. “Citizen Activity: Who Participates? What Do They Say?” The American Political Science Review 87(2): 303–18.



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