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Voluntary Associations Within the Local Political Context: How Characteristics of the Organizations and the Local Governments Influence Perceptions of Success

Abstract

A cornerstone of democracy is the capacity of citizens to influence political decisions either through elections or by making their will known in the periods between elections. The aim of the present study is twofold: (1) to explore what factors inherent of the voluntary associations that determine the perceived success in their attempts to influence policy and (2) to investigate what role the composition of the local government have on the perceived success. This study is based on a survey conducted among 404 local voluntary associations in four different municipalities in Sweden. The results show that the frequency contacts influence perceived success positively, while the level of civic engagement of the voluntary associations affected the perceived success negatively. Having a heterogeneous local government also contributed positively to the perceived success to influence policy.

Résumé

Un des éléments essentiels de la démocratie est la capacité des citoyens à influencer les décisions politiques soit par le biais d’élections, soit en faisant connaître leur volonté entre les périodes d’élection. Le but de cette étude est double : (1) explorer les facteurs qui, inhérents aux associations bénévoles, déterminent le succès perçu de leurs tentatives d’influencer les politiques et (2) chercher à établir le rôle que la composition du gouvernement local semble avoir quant à la perception de ce succès. Cette étude est fondée sur une enquête conduite auprès de 404 associations bénévoles locales dans quatre municipalités suédoises. Les résultats montrent que la fréquence des contacts influence la perception du succès de façon positive, alors que le niveau d’engagement civique des associations bénévoles affecte la perception du succès de façon négative. L’hétérogénéité du gouvernement local contribue aussi de façon positive à la perception du succès des efforts pour influencer les politiques.

Zusammenfassung

Ein Grundstein der Demokratie ist die Fähigkeit der Bürger, politische Entscheidungen entweder durch Wahlen beeinflussen oder ihren Willen zwischen den Wahlen bekannt machen zu können. Die vorliegende Studie hat zwei Ziele: (1) Es soll untersucht werden, welche immanenten Faktoren der gemeinnützigen Verbände den wahrgenommenen Erfolg bei der Beeinflussung der Politik seitens der Bürger bestimmen und (2) welche Rolle der Aufbau der Lokalregierung bei dem wahrgenommenen Erfolg spielt. Die Studie beruht auf einer Befragung von 404 lokalen Wohltätigkeitsverbänden in vier verschiedenen Gemeinden in Schweden. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass sich die Kontakthäufigkeit positiv auf den wahrgenommenen Erfolg auswirkt, während das Ausmaß des Bürgerengagements der Wohltätigkeitsverbände den wahrgenommenen Erfolg negativ beeinflussten. Eine heterogene Lokalregierung trug positiv zu dem wahrgenommenen Erfolg bei der Politikbeeinflussung bei.

Resumen

Una piedra angular de la democracia es la capacidad de los ciudadanos de influir en las decisiones políticas mediante las elecciones o dando a conocer su voluntad en los períodos entre elecciones. El objetivo del presente estudio es doble: (1) explorar qué factores inherentes a las asociaciones de voluntarios determinan el éxito percibido en sus intentos de influir en la política y (2) investigar qué papel tiene la composición del gobierno local en el éxito percibido. El presente estudio se basa en una encuesta realizada entre 404 asociaciones de voluntarios en cuatro municipios diferentes en Suecia. Los resultados muestran que la frecuencia de los contactos influye en el éxito percibido de manera positiva, mientras que el nivel de compromiso cívico de las asociaciones de voluntarios afectaba al éxito percibido de manera negativa. Tener un gobierno local heterogéneo también contribuía de manera positiva al éxito percibido de influir en la política.

摘要

民主的一个基石是居民影响政治决策的能力,这通过选举或选举间发出自己的声音。当前研究的目标有两部分:(1) 探索志愿协会固有的哪些因素确定其影响政策尝试的知觉成功;并 (2) 调查当地政府在知觉成功方面扮演什么角色。本研究基于对瑞典四个不同市政当局的404个本地志愿协会的调查。结果显示,接触频率正面影响知觉成功,而志愿协会的公民参与等级则负面影响知觉成功。多样化的当地政府还对影响政策的知觉成功有着积极影响。.

ملخص

حجر الزاوية في الديمقراطية هو قدرة المواطنين على التأثير في القرارات السياسية سواء من خلال الإنتخابات أو من خلال جعل إرادتهم معروفة في الفترات الواقعة بين الإنتخابات. الهدف من هذه الدراسة ذو شقين: 1) لإستكشاف ما هي العوامل الكامنة في الجمعيات التطوعية التي تحدد النجاح الملحوظ في محاولاتها للتأثيرعلى السياسة و 2) للتحقيق في الدور الذي أدته تركيبة الحكومة المحلية في نجاح ملحوظ. تستند هذه الدراسة على إستطلاع رأي تم إجراؤه بين404 جمعيات تطوعية محلية في أربع بلديات مختلفة في السويد. 3) تظهر النتائج أن تكرار الإتصالات يؤثر إيجابيا˝على النجاح الملحوظ، في حين أن مستوى المشاركة المدنية للجمعيات التطوعية أثرت على النجاح الملحوظ سلبا˝. كما ساهم تشكيل حكومة محلية غير متجانسة بشكل إيجابي في النجاح الملحوظ للتأثير على السياسة.

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Notes

  1. Previous studies have argued that the register likely provides better coverage of large than small voluntary associations. For the purposes of this study, the register covers the population of voluntary associations sufficiently well.

  2. In September 2010, local and national elections were held that altered the political landscape of two of the municipalities surveyed here. In the municipality of Katrineholm, the dominant Social Democratic party entered a coalition with the Moderate party, but remained four seats short of a majority in the municipal council. In the municipality of Berg, the dominant local party lost a large proportion of votes, weakening its position within the local governing coalition.

  3. Other studies using information from the register have found a similar proportion of ineligible organizations (see Lindberg 2005).

  4. Calculated as [received responses/(total sample − ineligibles)] × 100 = [404/(800 − 127)] × 100 = 60.03%.

  5. Different types of classification have been proposed by different studies (see Wijkström, 2010). We acknowledge the difficulty of classifying organizations. One example from Sweden is how the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management organizes people with a common hobby (leisure); yet, they act as an interest group by advocating the legalization of hunting of wolves in Sweden (interest group).

  6. The survey was conducted during an election year, but was administered before the most intense electoral campaigning began.

  7. The reasons for contacting local politicians were: to address an issue important to the members of the association; to request financial support; address an issue regarding the local community; to request help to arrange events. The first three were by far the most frequently mentioned alternatives.

  8. The type of voluntary associations is not included as it was not statistically significant in the previous bivariate analyses. Introducing the variable in the multivariate analyses does not alter the results and the variable is not significant.

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Acknowledgment

I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions.

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Correspondence to Susanne Wallman Lundåsen.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 6.

Table 6 Selection criteria for the municipalities

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Wallman Lundåsen, S. Voluntary Associations Within the Local Political Context: How Characteristics of the Organizations and the Local Governments Influence Perceptions of Success. Voluntas 25, 1041–1061 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-013-9383-4

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Keywords

  • Political participation
  • Voluntary associations
  • Local government
  • Municipalities
  • Contacts
  • Influence