Political Behavior

, Volume 30, Issue 3, pp 391–413 | Cite as

Participation for What? A Policy-motivated Approach to Political Activism

Original Paper


Normatively and intuitively, we conceive of political participation as an integral component of democratic policymaking. However, research on participation generally does not include policy considerations as part of individuals’ decisions to engage in activism. I offer an opportunity model of participation that begins to study how policy goals shape individual participation and how aggregate participation shapes policymaking. The central argument is that individuals’ policy goals allow them to recognize those moments when it is most efficient and/or effective to take action. Examining black participation from 1980 to 1994, I show that black Americans are more likely to participate when they face external threats, are embedded in social networks, and have greater access to policymakers. Most importantly, the recognition of these opportunities varies according to individuals’ resources. This research moves beyond the discussion of who participates to address the equally fundamental question: participation for what?


Black political participation Agenda setting Congressional attention Black politics Activism Opportunity model 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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