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By José Santana Pereira

Political behavior can be defined as actions taken by ordinary citizens with political motivations or goals, which can directly or indirectly influence political outcomes. It subsumes all the activities that ordinary citizens engage in and have a link with the democratic process, from reading the politics section of the newspaper to engaging in several forms of political participation. Indeed, within the study of political behavior, political participation is a key research subject, with the specialized literature often establishing a distinction between conventional and unconventional political participation. One of the most conventional forms of political participation in representative democracies, is, of course, voting in elections and referenda, but there are several other forms, such as partaking in political campaign actions or events, making financial contributions to parties and candidates, participating in demonstrations, signing petitions, or contacting elected officials or other political elite members. Within this type of political participation, we can identify elite-supportive or institutionalized participation (those actions that include interacting or collaborating with political elites) and expressive, elite-challenging forms of participation (those that follow uncooperative paths). Instead, unconventional participation includes, for instance, boycotting specific products or brands for political reasons, as well as more extreme actions such as occupy factories or buildings, blocking highways or railroads and damaging public buildings or spaces. A great deal of the research on political behavior has focused on voting, trying to, on the one hand, pinpoint the factors leading citizens to decide on turning out to vote vs. abstaining, and, on the other, shed light on how people decide which party or candidate they will support with their vote. Instead, research on other forms of political behavior has tried to understand both the factors underlying the propensity to engage in several forms of participation and the relationship between different types of participation (showing, for example, that in several contexts younger cohorts of citizens are more likely to engage in forms of elite-challenging and unconventional political participation than to vote).

Related References

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Cite this entry as:

Pereira, José Santana. 2022. ‘Political Behavior’. In Populisms and Emotions Glossary, edited by Cristiano Gianolla and Maíra Magalhães Lopes. Available atário