Political Behavior

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 259–283 | Cite as

Nonparticipation as Self-Censorship: Publicly Observable Political Activity in a Polarized Opinion Climate

  • Andrew F. HayesEmail author
  • Dietram A. Scheufele
  • Michael E. Huge
Original Paper


In a polarized opinion climate, people may refrain from participating in publicly observable political activities that make them vulnerable to scrutiny and criticism by others who hold opinions that differ from their own. We took a dispositional approach to testing this claim by determining whether people who are relatively more influenced by the climate of opinion when choosing whether or not to voice an opinion, measured with the Willingness to Self-Censor scale [Hayes et al. International Journal of Public Opinion Research 17 (2005) 298], are also relatively less likely to engage in public political activities. In a poll of residents of the United States, we found that even after controlling for interest in politics, political ideology, ideological extremity, political efficacy, attention to political news, dispositional shyness, frequency of political discussion, and demographics, dispositional self-censors reported having engaged in relatively fewer public political activities over the prior 2 years compared to those less willing to censor their own opinion expression. These results are consistent with our interpretation of political participation as a social process that is governed in part by the social psychological implications of participation to the person. At a larger theoretical level, our findings connect the literature on opinion perceptions and opinion expression with research on political participation.


Political participation Disagreement Self-censorship Public opinion Opinion expression 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew F. Hayes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dietram A. Scheufele
    • 2
  • Michael E. Huge
    • 1
  1. 1.School of CommunicationThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.School of Journalism and Mass CommunicationUniversity of Wisconsin—MadisonMadisonUSA

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