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Pathways to Civic Engagement with Big Social Issues: An Integrated Approach

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes ...

and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.

—Eleanor Roosevelt

Abstract

Individual actions designed to address issues of public concern is a common theme in the discourse on how to mobilize resources and target efforts toward sustainable practices. We contribute to this area by (1) developing and empirically validating a multidimensional scale for civic engagement; (2) synthesizing and testing the adequacy of the theory of planned behavior (TPB) and the value–belief–norm (VBN) theory in explaining civic engagement; and (3) considering how an individual’s orientation, identity, and beliefs motivate moral thinking and action. The focus is on the important social issues of global warming and climate change, income inequality, and world poverty, and hunger. We follow both correlational and configurational approaches to examine symmetric and asymmetric causal relationships, respectively. The findings from a sample of 819 US citizens reveal that the TPB and VBN theory can adequately explain civic engagement, after we control for the influence of past experience. In addition, while belief in a just world inhibits the occurrence of adverse consequences and the formation of positive attitudes, social value orientation, and moral identity facilitate them. Notably, at least two causal conditions need to be present for adverse confsequences to emerge, while moral identity is almost a necessary condition for the development of positive attitudes. We conclude with a discussion of important implications for researchers and practitioners.

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Notes

  1. Although climate change (i.e., long-term change in the earth’s climate) technically connotes all forms of climatic deviation, including global warming (i.e., increase in the earth’s average surface temperature), many people find it difficult to distinguish climate change from global warming, and the two terms are often used interchangeably in the literature (e.g., McCright, 2010).

  2. We initially conducted a measurement invariance test of the factors used in our empirical model, using the procedure suggested by Henseler et al. (2016) for SmartPLS 3.2.3. First, it was established that the three datasets had identical indicators, data treatment, model specification, and algorithm settings. This allows for configural invariance to be met. Second, we employed the permutation procedure with 5,000 permutations and 5% level of significance for each dataset. In all cases, the original correlations (c) exceeded the 5% quartile of the permutation procedure correlations, providing evidence of compositional invariance. Third, we used multigroup analysis to establish the equality of the composites’ mean values and variances. The permutation test results (5,000 permutations) show that the mean value and variance between the three groups do not significantly differ in results (p < .05). These findings indicate that there are no differences in the three datasets attributed to measurement.

  3. Multigroup analysis using SmartPLS 3.2.3 was conducted to ascertain differences among the three groups. The results showed that the subjective norm–attitude link was not significant in the world poverty and hunger subsample and a few other links became stronger or weaker but did not materially change, depending on the issue polled. The results are available upon request. We thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting this comparison.

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Correspondence to Dionysis Skarmeas.

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Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 5 and 6

Table 5 Sample demographics
Table 6 Constructs, scales, and items

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Skarmeas, D., Leonidou, C.N., Saridakis, C. et al. Pathways to Civic Engagement with Big Social Issues: An Integrated Approach. J Bus Ethics 164, 261–285 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04276-8

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Keywords

  • Civic engagement
  • Sustainability
  • Social issues