An analysis of political efficacy socialisation among threshold voters in the Republic of Ireland

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Murphy, Philip Joseph
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University College Cork
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The spread of democracy in the latter part of the twenty first century has been accompanied by an increasing focus on its perceived performance in established western democracies. Recent literature has expressed concern about a critical outlook among younger cohorts which threatens their political support and engagement. Political efficacy, referring to the feeling of political effectiveness, is considered to be a key indicator of the performance of democratic politics; as it refers to the empowerment of citizens, and relates to their willingness to engage in political matters. The aim of this thesis is to analyse the socialisation of political efficacy among those on the threshold of political adulthood; i.e., 'threshold voters'. The long-term significance of attitudes developed by time of entry to adulthood for political engagement during adulthood has been emphasised in recent literature. By capturing the effect of non-political and political learning among threshold voters, the study advances existing research frames which focus on childhood and early adolescent socialisation. The theoretical and methodological framework applied herein recognises the distinction between internal and external political efficacy, which has not been consistently operationalized in existing research on efficacy socialisation. This research involves a case study of 'threshold voters' in the Republic of Ireland, and employs a quantitative methodology. A study on Irish threshold voters is timely as the parliament and government have recently proposed a lowering of the voting age and an expansion of formal political education to this age group. A project-specific survey instrument was developed and administered to a systematic stratified sample of 1,042 post-primary students in the Cork area. Interpretation of the results of statistical analysis leads to findings on the divergent influence of family, school, associational, and political agents/environments on threshold voter internal and external political efficacy.
Political efficacy , Political education , Threshold voters
Murphy, P.J., 2011. An analysis of political efficacy socialisation among threshold voters in the Republic of Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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