1. Being politically active
It is difficult to think of politics as of a sphere totally separate from our private lives. However, we are often erroneously convinced of its separate character. An individual's basic problem in the world of politics was already defined by Aristotle in "Politics". He concluded that man is a being created to live in a state. 1
What is the reason that some citizens take active part in the life of a local and state community and others avoid it as much as they can? What decides about a person's possible involvement in politics often described as "dirty" dominated by a "gang of thieves"? What makes a charitable activity being considered noble and political activities perceived in a pejorative way? Do social or environmental conditions influence it? Do psychological features of a human being have essential significance?
One ought to start with legal possibilities of social and political involvement. The system of totalitarian countries allows merely such a socio-political activity which is in accordance with the only right and leading thought of the leader. Transforming this system into a democratic one with time gives citizens a chance to participate in gradual creation of reality.2 Only democracy gives man a right and a duty to shape his/her own community. Thanks to it, as Aristotle wrote, "all citizens should take part in governing and also should allow being governed". Paradoxically, as research shows, the willingness to act is most frequently inversely proportional to the possibility to act.3
2. Political activity forms
Political activity can assume a lot of forms. Not everyone feels a need (and has possibilities) to equally strongly participate in the political life of his/her country or community. Probably it is even better. There would be political chaos in a country if everybody was aware of the strong separate character of his/her opinions and felt a strong need to verbalise them, promote and make other people share his/her opinions and judgments. Moreover, a country could not develop if all people were inflamed with a desire to get to know political and social ideas.4
In such a situation the main social group would then become professors of political science and sociology, which would result in lack of engineers, economists, etc. It is obviously an exaggerated picture, however, it shows why one should not depreciate people who are not much involved in political activity or who perceive an individual's function in a civic society differently. Obviously it does not mean one should approve of political passivity as it leads at its worst stage to ineffectiveness and the downfall of democratic values as well as procedures and eventually leads to leaving the system in which citizens have power in aid of oligarchy or an authoritarian system.5
Being politically active can assume a lot of levels, commensurate to the willingness to participate in the socio-political life of a country. The first of them is political commitment, which is a broad term determining the interest (to a small or average degree) in political life, party leaders and their programs. Such attitude can (but it does not have to) lead to being socio-politically active. A high degree of political commitment transforms itself smoothly into political participation, understood as a real influence which can change or maintain particular politics. The politics can in turn be divided into several stages depending on its strength.6
Symbolic political participation encompasses undertaking activities being aware of the impossibility of changing the existing status quo, ritual and symbolic gestures. Usually it is expressed by means of public meetings, protests, laying flowers symbolically. All these activities result from a need to express one's own beliefs. Additional stimulus is the possibility to act in a group, which has two essential aspects. The first of them is looking for confirmation of one's own subjective assessments. A person not being sure of his/her own political judgments gains from a society (represented by a certain group of people) a peculiar right to present particular arguments.
Furthermore, participation in public meetings is most often related to anonymity and lack of need to undertake initiative. A person taking part in such type of symbolic actions feels safe in a group of people thinking the same way he/she does, at the same time finding satisfaction that he/she fulfills the civic duty of participation in the life of the country and expressing willingness or readiness towards reforms. 7
Conventional political participation is another rung of a citizen being active. It is in accord with democratic principles and conventions and it is most frequently related to the election of constitutional bodies representatives. A person adopting such an attitude has certain trust in state institutions. He/she usually thinks that a state ought to be changed (or protected against negative changes in the case of conservative attitudes) by means of legal means worked out over years of democratic societies experience. Voting or participating in a referendum is not only a symbolic gesture but a conscious action aiming at materialising one's own opinions through supporting the right candidate (Converse, Philip. 1964).
Unconventional political participation is associated with direct participation in politics - without the mediation of state institutions that is by means of strikes, building occupation, etc. One can single out legal participation (writing petitions, legal demonstrations) and illegal participation (blocking traffic, fights). It results from utter lack of trust for democratic state institutions. However, it is much more radical than ordinary political commitment and usually results from long lasting frustration with the course of authorities (Clarke, H., Marianne Stewart. 1998).
It may also result from reaching by some social group such a financial or social level which requires (according to the group) immediate intervention of the state. It is a dramatic expression of disagreement on "socially unfair" treatment by the system or, as it has recently happened more and more frequently, in more developed economies unconventional defence of formerly granted privileges.
An example of such an action can be the riots in France that have happened a few times in recent years. Groups of immigrants feeling excluded and socially marginalized many times vandalized the suburbs of Paris and other cities in this country. Strikes aiming at defending a (remarkably short comparing to other countries in the world) working week, retirement privileges or unequal law concerning employment are very popular there. A few times a year the country is paralysed by protesting trade unions. France might be considered European capital of unconventional political participation according to a popular saying that "it is easier to have a revolution in France than reforms".
Political violence is deliberate destruction of property in order to achieve political benefits. The activities of Boko Haram Militias in Northern Nigeria, can be an example of this. By means of terrorist methods various groups try to fight for the values they have. Usually the reason of such actions is separation pursuit in a particular region. The operations of such radical Islamic movements as Boko Haram Militias in Northern8 Nigeria can be called extreme forms of political violence. However, the actions of these organizations go on such a big scale that their operations can be classified rather as modern guerilla war than political violence.9
3. being electorally active or passive in Nigeria
Participation in elections is sometimes the only form of participation in political life. However, even "the least intensive" form of participation is not common. What does being politically active depend on then? The factors having influence on the turnout can be looked for in the so called “before election” situation and psychological aspects of a voting individual.
More people participate in elections when just the act of voting seems important, when the election situation creates a feeling that participation in elections is bound with personal influence on their results and the shape of politics.
More people are interested in presidential elections because (as a clash of charismatic individuals) they are more media attractive than parliamentary elections oriented towards (at least theoretically) a fight of programs. "The ease" of voting and higher attendance take place when there are understandable and unambiguous differences between candidates, when a voter does not have to make a detailed analysis of their electoral programs and differences between the actors of the election stage. This is the reason why more people are interested in presidential elections - few candidates and often clear program differences. The lack of a clear border between the views of president Obasanjo and General Muhammadu Buhari were the reasons why a lot of people resigned from voting in elections in 2007 (Babor, Denny.2011).
The view the turnout in elections is higher when citizens hope for great changes after elections is popular. It is natural as it contains the essence of democracy. It has no sense to participate in elections which have only symbolic or propaganda character. One cannot, however, claim that all citizens go to ballot boxes in order to change the current crew holding power. One might have such misconception considering (Babor, Denny.2011).
Nigerian politics after the year 1999 as one party has managed to hold power for more than two turn of office in this period. Such state is, however, very characteristic of young democracies because every election gives hope for the quality of life improvement. On the other hand, weakly formed and not very experienced political elites can rarely meet the demands they face. It leads to the situation that parties win elections proclaiming populist, catchy slogans and making use of social dissatisfaction because of the fact the people previously in power have not fulfilled their unreal electoral promises.
It causes a sine curve of political activity- strong during elections, when great slogans (and even greater promises) are put forward and weak in the period between elections, when there is disappointment and lack of noticeable effects of the decisions made by the government. Furthermore, it leads to gradual departure from the politics of ordinary citizens, frustrated with the impossibility of real influence on the actions of the state.10
Citizens take part in elections more often when the so called participation costs are not high, when they do not have to renounce other duties or pleasures. This is the reason why elections are never held during holiday time as a lot of people would not like to resign from their holiday to take part in the elections.11
The influence of a single person on election results is slim. It is an irrefutable fact, but it does not mean that lack of participation in elections does not change anything. Apart from the fact that the overall number of votes gained by a candidate consists of the single, "insignificant" votes of single citizens and the fact that a small amount of votes often decides who wins, there is also a more important phenomenon. The attitude of one person has an enormous impact on the behaviour of other people. If a person considered authority in a particular group decides to be politically passive, there is a high chance that people sharing his/her views will also decide to withdraw from participation in elections or other civic initiatives. 12
Since it can be assumed that everyone is (to a bigger or smaller degree) authority for some people (a father for his children, a director for his employees, a teacher for his/her students, and even a friend for a friend), quasi-autonomous decision influences the attitudes of many other people. It is, therefore, unreasonable to say that a vote of one person has power of one vote. In reality it has the power of all the people who respect the one.
Lack of trust and discouragement towards political elites as well as changing one's lifestyle (different places of work or living) are the elements which weaken considerably electoral turnout. Changing one's lifestyle causes lack of identification with a new social group. For some people it causes a feeling of lack of justification for deciding on the life and rules that will govern the society he/she does not feel a part of yet (Babor, Denny. 2011.
Complicated and not very clear electoral law to the House representatives and Senate causes the situation that voters do not understand the rules wholly: who and under what conditions can become a member of parliament. Criterion of granting particular candidates positions on electoral lists is not clear either. Citizens have the impression that it is the political parties that decide which of candidates will have the strongest chance to win elections.
People being better educated and having a higher social status participate in elections more often. It results from their greater awareness regarding the procedures and rules governing the country. They also have a more coherent and elaborate picture of the state they would like to live in. It also happens that (due to the fact they live in a city) they simply have an easier access to polling stations, getting to which is rarely connected with a far march in not very favourable conditions (Korzeniowski, Krzysztof. 2002).
4. Electoral behaviour of voters (psychology)
In the theory of electoral behaviour one can notice several attitudes of people having the right to vote. They depend to a great extent on the degree a person is able to define his/her own preferences and beliefs (not only political but also social, religious or economic).13 A person having the clearest, most elaborate views long before the time of election knows who she/he will vote for. It is bound with a considerable emotional commitment a voter takes his/her decision with. For such a person the issue of liberalising economy can be so fundamental that he/she cannot imagine voting for a party not sharing this view. He/she also thinks such legal-economic regulation would be remarkably useful for society and him/her.
Since we cannot assume that people who vote do it because of high motives, Plain people usually think in a very short-sighted manner and easily believe the promises of pay rises, additional social benefits, etc.14 They do not think how high costs such policy is connected with and they do not accept the fact that there can exist justice in which they do not deserve a higher financial or social status. Such people know what they want and suit a party to their own ideals. 15
One more extremely important group can be added to the circle of people who know who they will vote for long before elections, that is the so called "iron electorate". These voters are remarkably faithful not so much to ideals as to a party or politicians as such. Even considerable changes in the views proclaimed by their candidates are not able to make their "admirers" vote for somebody else. It so happens when there is a bond between a candidate and a voter having a psychologically explicable basis (de Barbaro, Natalia .2005).
Such a candidate must be authority for his/her "iron electorate", and one can earn such an appellation in many different ways. These can be various achievements, and there can be found a lot of examples of such people in Nigeria politics. Some of them have gained the liking of voters fighting for democratic values (General Ibrahim Babangida, General Muhammadu Buhari ), some of them thanks to their political activists and writers like, Wole Soyinka, Chinue Achebe and Isaac Preboye ), others thanks to their achievements in music industry and entertainment (Musicians) or entertainment (African muscic Legenda, Fela Kuti, Chief Com. Ebenezer Obey and King Robert Ebizimor, Chief Allen Alabo etc), and still others thanks to their performances in popular entertainment industry, Some political parties gain support from all families, in which supporting them is treated as a tradition which is hard to go against.
For instance, Nigerian Peasant Party has a lot of such voters. People called "iron electorate" play an extremely important role especially when turnout in elections is low. As they are a very loyal and disciplined group as regards fulfilling one's civil duty and their votes are especially important when people is not having specified views deicide not to take active part in elections.16
There might occur an extremely opposite stance when a potential voter is sure he/she will not go to vote. It might be a result of a few even overlapping reasons. First of all, such a person might not have any trust in the procedures of nation representatives' democratic election. It happens when there is a high chance that the result of elections will be fixed. Another reason is the impression of referendum little significance. An example could be the first elections conducted in Nigeria to African parliament. The attendance was very low at that time which resulted from Nigeria people lack of identification as West African (Babor, Denny. 2011).
An average Nigerian all the time is convinced that his/her life depends to a greater degree on the House of Senate in Abuja than on "supranational assembly'' at African Union in Abasia-Ethiopia. Another more individual reason as regards the decision concerning the lack of political activity might be an anti-state world view of an individual. A lot of anarchists and supporters of anti-globalization movement do not participate in elections because they claim that the institution of a country is erroneous in itself. Therefore, they are consistent and do not take part in an event they do not approve of.
There are also voters initially deciding they will participate in elections. It is a group sociologists and party specialists in Public Relations are mostly interested in. People declaring in this way willingness to take part in elections usually do not have clear political views yet. Perhaps they hesitate between two candidates, maybe propaganda materials from any of the parties fighting for seats have not got to them yet, and perhaps they feel lost in the political fight which takes place in the media.17
Usually, and this is very important, such people constitute the majority of society. Moreover, it is the only group which can still be convinced to change or even to create their own political views. It so happens because making someone belonging to "iron electorate" of some party to vote in favour of another party is almost always doomed to failure. Similarly, one cannot, at least in Poland, make anyone participate in elections. This is the reason why parties address the main content of their campaigns to the group of people who have not decided yet.
5. Basic theories of political decisions.
If a citizen has already taken the decision to take part in elections (legitimizing authority), one should put a question concerning political choices made by him/her in the act of voting. What makes the person decide to cast a vote in favour of a particular party and vote for a particular candidate?
The theory of party identification was created by Agnus Campbell in 1960, in the United States. It is based on the thesis that the basis of an electoral decision is identification with a grouping we consider as ours.18 This identification is by assumption a constant phenomenon and its role becomes the clearest in two-party systems but also the ones having long history of a socio-political system. One ought to add that in such type of democracies one can notice party identification imparted from a generation to generation.
Parents often pass on views and political likings to their children. It is difficult to translate this theory uncritically for countries having political systems of low stability. In these countries we can notice identification on the right-left plane. According to I. Crewe has singled out four identification groups:
- polarised - strong support for one party and strong rejection of another
- loyal - this is strong or moderate support for one's party and lack of strong rejection of another
- negative - lack of strong support for a particular party and strong rejection of another
- apathetic - lack of strong support for one's party and lack of strong rejection of another.
An essential element in this distinction is the issue of identification type. The author singles out next to positive identification also negative one. It is understood as dislike for a particular political party. An elector voting for a party does not express support for it but wants to make it difficult for an opposite party to win.
The theory of thematic voting is based on the thesis that the bases of an electoral decision are the issues and problems brought up by candidates. There must be a few conditions for this theory to be developed:
- the issues must be socially popular, important for potential voters
- the entities competing with each other on electoral arena must differ from each other in their assessment of a particular problem
- a politician representing a given party must be easily identified with a particular issue
- the level of voters' political knowledge must be high (the so called level of political sophistication)
- a voter must have his/her own opinion on a particular topic.
In spite of raising reservations concerning low level of political sophistication, researchers notice a rise in the number of voters casting their votes on the basis of thematic identification. One can draw a conclusion that an electoral topic has become more important than party identification. Political parties which advance this theory try to find topics that will be characteristic only of them and will become an expression of possibly the biggest social group's will.
In marketing model the relationships between the actors on political arena and voters are treated in a typically marketing manner. A candidate is a product and a voter is a consumer. Bruce I. Newman, who has assumed such an attitude to electoral competition, has singled out areas called cognitive domains which decide on the final choice.
- First domain - problems and directions of political actions. Issues raised in a campaign have influence on our decision but this is not its only factor. The theses discussed in a program must coincide with the views of the electorate one counts on support of.
- Second domain - social image. A candidate must be similar to his/her elector, that is he/she cannot differ significantly (demographically and ideologically) from the ones whose support he/she wants to get.
- Third domain - feelings. A candidate's image should be created in such a way as to arouse positive feelings in a voter.
- Fourth domain - a candidate's image. Coherence of all actions in order to create a uniform and credible image.
- Fifth domain- current events. A candidate must address current problems which appall society and present his/her own clear stance towards them.
- Sixth domain - relying on the opinion of others, authority issues.
Anthony Downs is considered the main inspiring figure of the next model - the theory of a rational voter. He was first to determine electoral decisions as rational. He has put forward a conception according to which voters' electoral behaviour is a result of their personal calculation of interests. He has introduced three terms:
- voting costs (C)
- likelihood that through voting one will manage to exert influence on the result of elections (P)
- a conviction that one candidate's victory will provide an individual with more advantages than another candidate's victory (K).
G. Tullock has noticed that an individual will take part in voting when PK-C>0. Other two theorists Riker and Ordeshook have proposed developing this theory and adding the question of a civic duty, attributing an essential role to it in the process of an electoral decision.
This theory has become an inspiration for Samuel L. Popkin, who has emphasised that (in order to get to a voter) one cannot omit what he/she already has in his/her head (the so called mental scripts).19 Moreover, voters absorb only as much information as they find necessary to take a decision. Information briefs also play an enormous role (what was he/she like as an MP - he/she will be the same again; relying on the opinion of others, e.g. relatives; young = inexperienced; a woman = indecisive; infidelity in marriage = lack of rules). He has also put emphasis on the fact that a piece of information regarding the present or near past will be better absorbed than one concerning matters from remote past.
Information ought to be internally coherent, firm and unambiguous. According to him a candidate should emphasise these features which match the mental script concerning a particular stance. The right choice of a campaign topic is extremely significant; there must be a connection between an issue and a stance, and also between the topic and a candidate. According to Popkin a campaign has become a peculiar race in delivering information - in limited time, with limited amount of money. It must be such information which will blend with a candidate's image and the character of which will let him win support. Sometimes one should reach people with such information regarding other candidates so that people would not vote for them (the so called black Public Relations). Furthermore, Popkin believes that a voter can vote against his/her theoretic preferences in order to get a more preferable final result.
In Summary, condition of activity is acknowledging politics as an important or valuable sphere for an individual, in which he/she can carry into effect various personal motives. People often get involved in politics in order to satisfy their need of influence, control over people or power. An accidental person asked about basic sources of power or possibility of being a leader most often points to politics.
An individual's ability to exert influence on people as well as high self-esteem are not indispensable in order to get involved in politics, they can, however, be a consequence of this involvement. Political activity is also motivated by loyalty towards particular groups. One can also give examples of participation in politics motivated by the desire to be with certain people, the feeling of a community, meeting new people, making friends with them, or just contacting famous people. All this makes citizens' political activity manipulation very difficult, however, not impossible.
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13 Korzeniowski, Krzysztof. 2002. Psychospołeczne uwarunkowania zachowań wyborczych (Psychosocial conditioning of electoral behaviour) [in:] Podstawy psychologii politycznej (The basics of political psychology), edit. Krystyna Skarżyńska. pp23-89
17 Dalton, Russell J. (2007) Ibid, pp.274-286
18 Campell, Agnus., Converse, Philip E., Warren E. Miller,. Stokes, Donald. E .1960. The American Voter, New York
19 Babor, Denny, 2011. Pschologiczne uwarunkowania actywnosci i biernosci polityczneji -Inter mosty Nr 2-3 Kwiecien-Wrzesien, ISSN2082-0011(2011),pp.4-9