Efficacy, emotions and the habit of participation


Political behavior is triggered by the presence of a variety of material and cognitive resources, including political efficacy. The dominant view conceptualizes efficacy as capital, used to overcome obstacles to participation. Our theory suggests that unlike other resources, efficacy aids in the development of habitual participation by activating a particular negative emotion, anger. Using the 1990-1992 NES Panel, we find that internal efficacy boosts participation in part by facilitating anger, but not fear, in response to policy threats. This partial mediating effect operates primarily among younger citizens who are in the process of developing the habit of participation. External efficacy, because it is not self-referential, is not causally linked to participation via emotions. Finally, internal efficacy is enhanced by successful participation in politics, closing a feedback loop that helps explain participatory habits. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

Publication Title

Political Behavior