Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Verba, Schlozman, Brady, and Nie. 1993. Citizen activity: Who participates? What do they say?. APSR: 303-318.
Wolfinger and Rosenstone (1980) showed that voters have the same attitudes as non-voters, despite demographic differences. In a similar vein, this study shows that activists have the same attitudes as non-activists, despite demographic differences. These demographic differences matter, however. Self-interested politicians consider not only what activists tell them, but who is telling it to them: "stories about basic human needs sound different to policymakers when told by those who are in need" (p 312). Thus, "because [disadvantaged groups] are less active, they actually send fewer messages about basic human needs than do more advantaged respondents," despite their similar attitudes (p 313).
See Fig 1 (p 306). It divides respondents into four categories:
[Race: The "race consciousness" variable from the 1972 Verba and Nie study has disappeared by now; apparently, the authors no longer see it as a factor.]
Fig 2 (p 307) and Fig 3 (p 308) demonstrate that these different factors have different effects on the various modes of participation. They have particularly strong effects on (1) who contributes to campaigns, (2) who servers on boards, (3) who works on campaigns, (3) who becomes a community activist, and so on.
Until now, the study looked at how many people engaged in various activities. In Table 1 (p 309), the authors consider not only the number of activists, but the amount of activity. When you look at Table 1, keep these two terms straight:
When you consider "activity" separately from "activists," you find that the disparities get even bigger. Advantaged groups become even more active relative to disadvantaged groups. Moreover, the advantaged groups are able to convey more explicit messages than other groups (Fig 4, p 310).
According to Table 2 (p 312), advantaged groups mention different issues as the subject of their political activity than disadvantaged groups do. Thus, although activists and non-activists have similar aggregate attitudes, activists are talking less about the "basic human needs" issues that the disadvantaged care most about. Not only that, but those activists who do talk about these issues are probably less persuasive: "stories about basic human needs sound different to policymakers when told by those who are in need" (312).
Research by the same authors
Research on similar subjects
Verba, Sidney (author) • Schlozman, Kay Lehman (author) • Brady, Henry (author) • Nie, Norman (author) • American Politics • Participation • Voting • Democracy • Socioeconomic Status • Responsiveness • Turnout